Herein we measured CD4+ T-cell responses against common cold coronaviruses (CCC) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in high-risk health care workers (HCW) and community controls. We observed higher levels of CCC-reactive T cells in SARS-CoV-2-seronegative HCW compared to community donors, consistent with potential higher occupational exposure of HCW to CCC. We further show that SARS-CoV-2 T-cell reactivity of seronegative HCW was higher than community controls and correlation between CCC and SARS-CoV-2 responses is consistent with cross-reactivity and not associated with recent in vivo activation. Surprisingly, CCC T-cell reactivity was decreased in SARS-CoV-2-infected HCW, suggesting that exposure to SARS-CoV-2 might interfere with CCC responses, either directly or indirectly. This result was unexpected, but consistently detected in independent cohorts derived from Miami and San Diego. CD4+ T-cell responses against common cold coronaviruses (CCC) are elevated in SARS-CoV-2 seronegative high-risk health care workers (HCW) compared to COVID-19 convalescent HCW, suggesting that exposure to SARS-CoV-2 might interfere with CCC responses and/or cross-reactivity associated with a protective effect.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; T cells; coronaviruses; health care workers.
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