One-Year Sustained Cellular and Humoral Immunities in Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Convalescents

Clin Infect Dis. 2022 Aug 24;75(1):e1072-e1081. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciab884.


Background: The longitudinal antigen-specific immunity in COVID-19 convalescents is crucial for long-term protection upon individual re-exposure to SARS-CoV-2, and even more pivotal for ultimately achieving population-level immunity. We conducted this cohort study to better understand the features of immune memory in individuals with different disease severities at 1 year post-disease onset.

Methods: We conducted a systematic antigen-specific immune evaluation in 101 COVID-19 convalescents, who had asymptomatic, mild, moderate, or severe disease, through 2 visits at months 6 and 12 after disease onset. The SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies, comprising neutralizing antibody (NAb), immunoglobulin (Ig) G, and IgM, were assessed by mutually corroborated assays (ie, neutralization, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA], and microparticle chemiluminescence immunoassay [MCLIA]). Meanwhile, T-cell memory against SARS-CoV-2 spike, membrane, and nucleocapsid proteins was tested through enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISpot), intracellular cytokine staining, and tetramer staining-based flow cytometry, respectively.

Results: SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies, and NAb, can persist among >95% of COVID-19 convalescents from 6 to 12 months after disease onset. At least 19/71 (26%) of COVID-19 convalescents (double positive in ELISA and MCLIA) had detectable circulating IgM antibody against SARS-CoV-2 at 12 months post-disease onset. Notably, numbers of convalescents with positive SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell responses (≥1 of the SARS-CoV-2 antigen S1, S2, M, and N proteins) were 71/76 (93%) and 67/73 (92%) at 6 and 12 months, respectively. Furthermore, both antibody and T-cell memory levels in the convalescents were positively associated with disease severity.

Conclusions: SARS-CoV-2-specific cellular and humoral immunities are durable at least until 1 year after disease onset.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; T cells; disease severity; neutralizing antibody.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G