The first 12 months of COVID-19: a timeline of immunological insights

Nat Rev Immunol. 2021 Apr;21(4):245-256. doi: 10.1038/s41577-021-00522-1. Epub 2021 Mar 15.


Since the initial reports of a cluster of pneumonia cases of unidentified origin in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, the novel coronavirus that causes this disease - severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) - has spread throughout the world, igniting the twenty-first century's deadliest pandemic. Over the past 12 months, a dizzying array of information has emerged from numerous laboratories, covering everything from the putative origin of SARS-CoV-2 to the development of numerous candidate vaccines. Many immunologists quickly pivoted from their existing research to focus on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and, owing to this unprecedented convergence of efforts on one viral infection, a remarkable body of work has been produced and disseminated, through both preprint servers and peer-reviewed journals. Here, we take readers through the timeline of key discoveries during the first year of the pandemic, which showcases the extraordinary leaps in our understanding of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and highlights gaps in our knowledge as well as areas for future investigations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / metabolism
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / therapy
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment
  • COVID-19 Serotherapy
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Drug Development
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Receptors, Coronavirus / metabolism
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / metabolism
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / immunology
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / therapy


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Autoantibodies
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Interferon Type I
  • Receptors, Coronavirus
  • Dexamethasone
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2

Supplementary concepts

  • pediatric multisystem inflammatory disease, COVID-19 related