Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools
There is limited information on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) T-cell immune responses in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells may be instrumental in resolution of and protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here, we tested 25 hospitalized patients either with microbiologically documented COVID-19 (n = 19) or highly suspected of having the disease (n = 6) for presence of SARS-CoV-2-reactive CD69+ expressing interferon-γ (IFN-γ) producing CD8+ T cells using flow-cytometry for intracellular cytokine staining assay. Two sets of overlapping peptides encompassing the SARS-CoV-2 Spike glycoprotein N-terminal 1 to 643 amino acid sequence and the entire sequence of SARS-CoV-2 M protein were used simultaneously as antigenic stimulus. Ten patients (40%) had detectable responses, displaying frequencies ranging from 0.15 to 2.7% (median of 0.57 cells/µL; range, 0.43-9.98 cells/µL). The detection rate of SARS-CoV-2-reactive IFN-γ CD8+ T cells in patients admitted to intensive care was comparable (P = .28) to the rate in patients hospitalized in other medical wards. No correlation was found between SARS-CoV-2-reactive IFN-γ CD8+ T-cell counts and SARS-CoV-2 S-specific antibody levels. Likewise, no correlation was observed between either SARS-CoV-2-reactive IFN-γ CD8+ T cells or S-specific immunoglobulin G-antibody titers and blood cell count or levels of inflammatory biomarkers. In summary, in this descriptive, preliminary study we showed that SARS-CoV-2-reactive IFN-γ CD8+ T cells can be detected in a non-negligible percentage of patients with moderate to severe forms of COVID-19. Further studies are warranted to determine whether quantitation of these T-cell subsets may provide prognostic information on the clinical course of COVID-19.