Systems biological assessment of the temporal dynamics of immunity to a viral infection in the first weeks and months of life

medRxiv. 2023 Jan 31;2023.01.28.23285133. doi: 10.1101/2023.01.28.23285133. Preprint


The dynamics of innate and adaptive immunity to infection in infants remain obscure. Here, we used a multi-omics approach to perform a longitudinal analysis of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 infection in infants and young children in the first weeks and months of life by analyzing blood samples collected before, during, and after infection with Omicron and Non-Omicron variants. Infection stimulated robust antibody titers that, unlike in adults, were stably maintained for >300 days. Antigen-specific memory B cell (MCB) responses were durable for 150 days but waned thereafter. Somatic hypermutation of V-genes in MCB accumulated progressively over 9 months. The innate response was characterized by upregulation of activation markers on blood innate cells, and a plasma cytokine profile distinct from that seen in adults, with no inflammatory cytokines, but an early and transient accumulation of chemokines (CXCL10, IL8, IL-18R1, CSF-1, CX3CL1), and type I IFN. The latter was strongly correlated with viral load, and expression of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) in myeloid cells measured by single-cell transcriptomics. Consistent with this, single-cell ATAC-seq revealed enhanced accessibility of chromatic loci targeted by interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) and reduced accessibility of AP-1 targeted loci, as well as traces of epigenetic imprinting in monocytes, during convalescence. Together, these data provide the first snapshot of immunity to infection during the initial weeks and months of life.

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