Immune profiling of patients with COVID-19 has shown that SARS-CoV-2 causes severe lymphocyte deficiencies (e.g., lymphopenia, decreased numbers, and exhaustion of T cells) and increased levels of pro-inflammatory monocytes. Peripheral blood (PB) samples from convalescent plasma (CP) donors, COVID-19 patients, and control subjects were analyzed by multiparametric flow cytometry, allowing the identification of a wide panel of immune cells, comprising lymphocytes (T, B, natural killer (NK) and NKT cells), monocytes, granulocytes, and their subsets. Compared to active COVID-19 patients, our results revealed that the immune profile of recovered donors was restored for most subpopulations. Nevertheless, even 2 months after recovery, CP donors still had reduced levels of CD4+ T and B cells, as well as granulocytes. CP donors with non-detectable levels of anti-SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies in their serum were characterized by higher Th9 and Th17 cells, which were possibly expanded at the expense of Th2 humoral immunity. The most noticeable alterations were identified in previously hospitalized CP donors, who presented the lowest levels of CD8+ regulatory T cells, the highest levels of CD56+CD16- NKT cells, and a promotion of a Th17-type phenotype, which might be associated with a prolonged pro-inflammatory response. A longer follow-up of CP donors will eventually reveal the time needed for full recovery of their immune system competence.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; convalescent plasma donors; immune profiling.