Survivors of severe SARS-CoV-2 infections frequently suffer from a range of post-infection sequelae. Whether survivors of mild or asymptomatic infections can expect any long-term health consequences is not yet known. Herein we investigated lasting changes to soluble inflammatory factors and cellular immune phenotype and function in individuals who had recovered from mild SARS-CoV-2 infections (n = 22), compared to those that had recovered from other mild respiratory infections (n = 11). Individuals who had experienced mild SARS-CoV-2 infections had elevated levels of C-reactive protein 1-3 months after symptom onset, and changes in phenotype and function of circulating T-cells that were not apparent in individuals 6-9 months post-symptom onset. Markers of monocyte activation, and expression of adherence and chemokine receptors indicative of altered migratory capacity, were also higher at 1-3 months post-infection in individuals who had mild SARS-CoV-2, but these were no longer elevated by 6-9 months post-infection. Perhaps most surprisingly, significantly more T-cells could be activated by polyclonal stimulation in individuals who had recently experienced a mild SARS-CoV-2, infection compared to individuals with other recent respiratory infections. These data are indicative of prolonged immune activation and systemic inflammation that persists for at least three months after mild or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; immune activation; immunophenotype; inflammation.