Cellular immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following intrafamilial exposure in seronegative family members
Jay C., Adland E., Csala A., Dold C., Edmans M., Hackstein C-P., Jamsen A., Lim N., Longet S., Ogbe A., Sampson O., Skelly D., Spiller OB., Stafford L., Thompson CP., Turtle L., Barnes E., Dunachie S., Carroll M., Klenerman P., Conlon C., Goulder P., Jones LC.
IntroductionFamily studies of antiviral immunity provide an opportunity to assess virus-specific immunity in infected and highly exposed individuals, as well as to examine the dynamics of viral infection within families. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between family members represented a major route for viral spread during the early stages of the pandemic, due to the nature of SARS-CoV-2 transmission through close contacts.MethodsHere, humoral and cellular immunity is explored in 264 SARS-CoV-2 infected, exposed or unexposed individuals from 81 families in the United Kingdom sampled in the winter of 2020 before widespread vaccination and infection.ResultsWe describe robust cellular and humoral immunity into COVID-19 convalescence, albeit with marked heterogeneity between families and between individuals. T-cell response magnitude is associated with male sex and older age by multiple linear regression. SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell responses in seronegative individuals are widespread, particularly in adults and in individuals exposed to SARS-CoV-2 through an infected family member. The magnitude of this response is associated with the number of seropositive family members, with a greater number of seropositive individuals within a family leading to stronger T-cell immunity in seronegative individuals.DiscussionThese results support a model whereby exposure to SARS-CoV-2 promotes T-cell immunity in the absence of an antibody response. The source of these seronegative T-cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 has been suggested as cross-reactive immunity to endemic coronaviruses that is expanded upon SARS-CoV-2 exposure. However, in this study, no association between HCoV-specific immunity and seronegative T-cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is identified, suggesting that de novo T-cell immunity may be generated in seronegative SARS-CoV-2 exposed individuals.