Persistence of Antibody and Cellular Immune Responses in Coronavirus Disease 2019 Patients Over Nine Months After Infection

J Infect Dis. 2021 Aug 16;224(4):586-594. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiab255.


Background: The duration of humoral and T and B cell response after the infection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) remains unclear.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study to assess the virus-specific antibody and memory T and B cell responses in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients up to 343 days after infection. Neutralizing antibodies and antibodies against the receptor-binding domain, spike, and nucleoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 were measured. Virus-specific memory T and B cell responses were analyzed.

Results: We enrolled 59 patients with COVID-19, including 38 moderate, 16 mild, and 5 asymptomatic patients; 31 (52.5%) were men and 28 (47.5%) were women. The median age was 41 years (interquartile range, 30-55). The median day from symptom onset to enrollment was 317 days (range 257 to 343 days). We found that approximately 90% of patients still have detectable immunoglobulin (Ig)G antibodies against spike and nucleocapsid proteins and neutralizing antibodies against pseudovirus, whereas ~60% of patients had detectable IgG antibodies against receptor-binding domain and surrogate virus-neutralizing antibodies. The SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG+ memory B cell and interferon-γ-secreting T cell responses were detectable in more than 70% of patients.

Conclusions: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2-specific immune memory response persists in most patients approximately 1 year after infection, which provides a promising sign for prevention from reinfection and vaccination strategy.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; memory B cell; memory T cell; neutralizing antibody; persistence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus