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BSI response to UK-CIC pre-print study on cellular immunity against SARS-CoV-2

SARS-CoV-2, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab2 November 2020

A new pre-print study from UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC) researchers suggests cellular (T cell) immunity against SARS-CoV-2 is present six months after asymptomatic or mild/moderate COVID-19 infection.

In response, the British Society for Immunology has released the following statement:


Professor Arne Akbar, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“This new study is a step forward in our understanding of immunity against SARS-CoV-2, one of the most critical questions for long-term control of the COVID-19 pandemic. By analysing the contribution of T cells to immunity after infection, we are moving closer to discerning a clearer picture of the complex question of individual protection after SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“This is one of largest cohorts studied in the world for cellular immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and, as such, has important implications for the development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine. One of the main conclusions is that T cells that are directed against the virus are maintained for at least six months after the infection. Therefore, while the levels of antibodies against SARS-Cov-2 may wane in patients who have recovered from the infection, as shown in other studies, T cell immunity is maintained during this same period. Consequently, loss of antibody alone does not predict loss of specific immunity to the virus.

“This pre-print study looks into COVID-19 immunity six months after asymptomatic and mild/moderate infection and does not investigate patients with severe disease. It will be important to investigate the durability of this protection by T cells beyond the six month mark, as well as how it may be different in patients with severe COVID-19.

“Rapid learning about immunity to the virus is crucial to minimise negative public health impact and the national approach taken by the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium is helping us to increase our knowledge about different aspects of COVID-19 immunology. While more research is undertaken to unravel the complexity of COVID-19 immunity, we must continue to take measures to slow the spread of the disease and protect public health.”


You can read the press release here. The UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium brings together UK 19 immunology centres of excellence to research how the immune system interacts with SARS-CoV-2 to help us improve patient care and develop better diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against COVID-19.

This paper is a pre-print reporting preliminary data that has not yet been peer-reviewed. It is currently being uploaded to bioRxiv: Zuo et al. 2020 Robust SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell immunity is maintained at 6 months following primary infection.