Robust SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell immunity is maintained at 6 months following primary infection

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Jianmin Zuo
  • Alexander C Dowell
  • Hayden Pearce
  • Kriti Verma
  • Heather M Long
  • Jusnara Begum
  • Felicity Aiano
  • Zahin Amin-Chowdhury
  • Bassam Hallis
  • Lorrain Stapley
  • Ray Borrow
  • Ezra Linley
  • Shazaad Ahmad
  • Ben Parker
  • Gayatri Amirthalingam
  • Kevin Brown
  • Mary E Ramsay
  • Shamez Ladhani
  • Paul Moss


The immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is critical in controlling disease, but there is concern that waning immunity may predispose to reinfection. We analyzed the magnitude and phenotype of the SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell response in 100 donors at 6 months following infection. T cell responses were present by ELISPOT and/or intracellular cytokine staining analysis in all donors and characterized by predominant CD4<sup>+</sup> T cell responses with strong interleukin (IL)-2 cytokine expression. Median T cell responses were 50% higher in donors who had experienced a symptomatic infection, indicating that the severity of primary infection establishes a 'set point' for cellular immunity. T cell responses to spike and nucleoprotein/membrane proteins were correlated with peak antibody levels. Furthermore, higher levels of nucleoprotein-specific T cells were associated with preservation of nucleoprotein-specific antibody level although no such correlation was observed in relation to spike-specific responses. In conclusion, our data are reassuring that functional SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses are retained at 6 months following infection.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)620-626
Number of pages7
JournalNature Immunology
Issue number5
Early online date5 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021