Immune responses in Omicron SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infection in vaccinated adults

Nat Commun. 2022 Jul 18;13(1):4165. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-31888-y.


The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant has more than 15 mutations in the receptor binding domain of the Spike protein enabling increased transmissibility and viral escape from antibodies in vaccinated individuals. It is unclear how vaccine immunity protects against Omicron infection. Here we show that vaccinated participants at a super-spreader event have robust recall response of humoral and pre-existing cellular immunity induced by the vaccines, and an emergent de novo T cell response to non-Spike antigens. Individuals with Omicron SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infections have significantly increased activated SARS-CoV-2 wild type Spike-specific cytotoxic T cells, activated follicular helper (TFH) cells, functional T cell responses, boosted humoral responses, and rapid release of Spike and RBD-specific IgG+ B cell plasmablasts and memory B cells into circulation. Omicron breakthrough infection affords significantly increased de novo memory T cell responses to non-Spike viral antigens. Concerted T and B cell responses may provide durable and broad immunity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Viral Vaccines*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Viral Vaccines
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants