SARS-CoV-2-Specific Antibody and T Cell Response Kinetics According to Symptom Severity

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  • 1 Department of Infectious Diseases, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea;
  • 2 Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and Center for Epidemic Preparedness, KAIST, Daejeon, Republic of Korea;
  • 3 Clinical Research Center, Asan Institute for Life Sciences, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea;
  • 4 Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, Chung-Ang University Hospital, Chung-Ang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea;
  • 5 Department of Infectious Diseases, Soonchunhyang University Seoul Hospital, Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea;
  • 6 Department of Infectious Diseases, Inje University Sanggye Paik Hospital, Inje University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Data on the longevity of humoral and cell-mediated immune responses against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are limited. We evaluated the detailed kinetics of antibody and T-cell responses at the acute, convalescent, and post-convalescent phases in COVID-19 patients with a wide range of severity. We enrolled patients with COVID-19 prospectively from four hospitals and one community treatment center between February 2020 and January 2021. symptom severity was classified as mild, moderate, or severe/critical. Patient blood samples were collected at 1 week (acute), 1 month (convalescent), and 2 months after symptom onset (post-convalescent). Human SARS-CoV-2 IgG and IgM antibodies were measured using in-house-developed ELISA. The SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell responses against overlapping peptides of spike proteins and nucleoprotein were measured by interferon-γ enzyme-linked immunospot assays. Twenty-five COVID-19 patients were analyzed (mild, n = 5; moderate, n = 9; severe/critical, n = 11). IgM and IgG antibody responses peaked at 1 month after symptom onset and decreased at 2 months. IgG response levels were significantly greater in the severe/critical group compared with other groups. Interferon-γ-producing T-cell responses increased between 1 week and 1 month after symptom onset, and had a trend toward decreasing at 2 months, but did not show significant differences according to severity. Our data indicate that SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody responses were greater in those with severe symptoms and waned after reaching a peak around 1 month after symptom onset. However, SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell responses were not significantly different according to symptom severity, and decreased slowly during the post-convalescent phase.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Sung-Han Kim, Department of Infectious Diseases, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, 88, Olympic-ro 43-gil, Songpa-gu, Seoul, 05505, Republic of Korea, E-mail: kimsunghanmd@hotmail.com or Eui-Cheol Shin, Laboratory of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon, 34141, Republic of Korea, E-mail: ecshin@kaist.ac.kr.

These authors contributed equally to this work.

Financial support: This work was supported by a grant from the Korea Health Technology R&D Project through the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, which is funded by the Ministry of Health & Welfare, Republic of Korea (grant no. HW20C2062).

Authors’ addresses: Ji Yeun Kim, Seongman Bae, Hye-Hee Cha, Jiwon Jung, Min-Jae Kim, and Sung-Han Kim, Department of Infectious Diseases, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea, E-mails: aeki22@snu.ac.kr, songman.b@gmail.com, heyhe0102@naver.com, trueblue27@naver.com, nahani99@gmail.com, and kimsunghanmd@hotmail.com. Ji-Soo Kwon and Eui-Cheol Shin, Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and Center for Epidemic Preparedness, KAIST, Daejeon, Republic of Korea, E-mails: kwonjs92@kaist.ac.kr and euicheols@kaist.ac.kr. Joon Seo Lim, Clinical Research Center, Asan Institute for Life Sciences, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea, E-mail: joonseolim@gmail.com. Min-Chul Kim and Jin-Won Chung, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, Chung-Ang University Hospital, Chung-Ang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea, E-mails: pour-soi@hanmail.net and drjwchung@cau.ac.kr. Se Yoon Park, Department of Infectious Diseases, Soonchunhyang University Seoul Hospital, Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea, E-mail: livinwill2@gmail.com. Myung Jin Lee and Baek-Nam Kim, Department of Infectious Diseases, Inje University Sanggye Paik Hospital, Inje University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea, E-mails: mjinnie@naver.com and kimbn@paik.ac.kr.

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