Mucosal Immunity in COVID-19: A Neglected but Critical Aspect of SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Front Immunol. 2020 Nov 30;11:611337. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.611337. eCollection 2020.


The mucosal immune system is the largest component of the entire immune system, having evolved to provide protection at the main sites of infectious threat: the mucosae. As SARS-CoV-2 initially infects the upper respiratory tract, its first interactions with the immune system must occur predominantly at the respiratory mucosal surfaces, during both inductive and effector phases of the response. However, almost all studies of the immune response in COVID-19 have focused exclusively on serum antibodies and systemic cell-mediated immunity including innate responses. This article proposes that there is a significant role for mucosal immunity and for secretory as well as circulating IgA antibodies in COVID-19, and that it is important to elucidate this in order to comprehend especially the asymptomatic and mild states of the infection, which appear to account for the majority of cases. Moreover, it is possible that mucosal immunity can be exploited for beneficial diagnostic, therapeutic, or prophylactic purposes.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; immune response; immunoglobulin A; mucosal immunity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / immunology
  • COVID-19* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal*
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin A