Distinct Features of SARS-CoV-2-specific T Cells Predict Recovery From Severe COVID-19

By Megan Brooks

July 15, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A team of scientists has uncovered distinct features of T cells that distinguish fatal from non-fatal COVID-19, which could pave the way for new treatments.

T cells are likely players in SARS-CoV-2 immunity, but until now little was known about the phenotypic features of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells associated with recovery from severe COVID-19, they note in Cell Reports.

To investigate, Dr. Nadia Roan with Gladstone Institutes, University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues analyzed T cells from 34 patients with COVID-19 ranging from mild (outpatient) to critical culminating in death.

They identified certain types of T cells whose "abundance predicted subsequent survival from COVID-19, and other types of T cells predicting death," Dr. Roan told Reuters Health by email.

"The favorable T cells (associated with survival) were those that could recognize and respond to infected cells, while the unfavorable T cells (associated with death) were those that could not actually recognize infected cells, but could migrate into the lung and cause uncontrolled inflammation and contribute to disease pathogenesis and potentially death," Dr. Roan explained.

"Interestingly, a protein present on the surface of these pathogenic T cells appears to direct migration of these cells into the lung, and therefore is an attractive new therapeutic target that we are investigating further," Dr. Roan said.

"We are in urgent need of immunomodulatory therapeutics that have efficacy at late stages of infection (when viral replication is not the main problem), and the target we have identified is a potential candidate in that regard," she added.

The study had no commercial funding and the authors have no relevant conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3wGWsWK Cell Reports, online June 29, 2021.