1Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, United States of America
First published September 25, 2020 - More info
The disease spectrum of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) ranges from no symptoms to multisystem failure and death. Characterization of virus-specific immune responses to severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is key to understanding disease pathogenesis, but few studies have evaluated T cell immunity. In this issue of the JCI, Sattler et al. sampled blood from subjects with COVID-19 and analyzed the activation and function of virus antigen-specific CD4+ T cells. T cells that failed to respond to peptides from the membrane, spike or nucleocapsid proteins were more common in subjects who died. In those whose T cells had the capacity to respond, older patients with more co-morbidity had larger numbers of activated T cells compared with patients that had fewer risk factors, but these cells showed impaired IFN- production. This cross-sectional study relates activated T cell responses to patient risk factors and outcome. However, T cell response trajectory over the disease course remains an open question.