Longitudinal analysis shows durable and broad immune memory after SARS-CoV-2 infection with persisting antibody responses and memory B and T cells

medRxiv. 2021 Jun 18;2021.04.19.21255739. doi: 10.1101/2021.04.19.21255739. Preprint


Ending the COVID-19 pandemic will require long-lived immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Here, we evaluate 254 COVID-19 patients longitudinally up to eight months and find durable broad-based immune responses. SARS-CoV-2 spike binding and neutralizing antibodies exhibit a bi-phasic decay with an extended half-life of >200 days suggesting the generation of longer-lived plasma cells. SARS-CoV-2 infection also boosts antibody titers to SARS-CoV-1 and common betacoronaviruses. In addition, spike-specific IgG+ memory B cells persist, which bodes well for a rapid antibody response upon virus re-exposure or vaccination. Virus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells are polyfunctional and maintained with an estimated half-life of 200 days. Interestingly, CD4+ T cell responses equally target several SARS-CoV-2 proteins, whereas the CD8+ T cell responses preferentially target the nucleoprotein, highlighting the potential importance of including the nucleoprotein in future vaccines. Taken together, these results suggest that broad and effective immunity may persist long-term in recovered COVID-19 patients.

Keywords: Antibody; B cells; CD4+ T cells; CD8+ T cells; COVID-19; Endemic coronaviruses; Immune memory; Kinetics; Neutralization; RBD; SARS-CoV-2; Spike.

Publication types

  • Preprint