The kinetics of NKG2C+ adaptive natural killer (ANK) cells and NKG2A+inhibitory NK (iNK) cells with respect to the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection were studied for 6 months in a cohort of healthcare workers following the administration of the heat-killed Mycobacterium w (Mw group) in comparison to a control group. In both groups, corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) correlated with lower NKG2C+ANK cells at baseline. There was a significant upregulation of NKG2C expression and IFN-γ release in the Mw group (p=0.0009), particularly in those with a lower baseline NKG2C expression, along with the downregulation of iNK cells (p<0.0001). This translated to a significant reduction in the incidence and severity of COVID-19 in the Mw group (incidence risk ratio-0.15, p=0.0004). RNA-seq analysis at 6 months showed an upregulation of the ANK pathway genes and an enhanced ANK-mediated antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) signature. Thus, Mw was observed to have a salutary impact on the ANK cell profile and a long-term upregulation of ANK-ADCC pathways, which could have provided protection against COVID-19 in a non-immune high-risk population.
Keywords: ADCC; COVID-19; Mw for COVID-19 Mycobacterium w (Mw); NKG2A; NKG2C; SARS-CoV-2; adaptive NK cells; innate immunity.
Copyright © 2022 Jaiswal, Arunachalam, Saifullah, Lakhchaura, Tailor, Mehta, Bhagawati, Aiyer, Khamar, Malhotra and Chakrabarti.