• COVID-19 immune signatures reveal stable antiviral T cell function despite declining humoral responses.

      Bonifacius, Agnes; Tischer-Zimmermann, Sabine; Dragon, Anna C; Gussarow, Daniel; Vogel, Alexander; Krettek, Ulrike; Gödecke, Nina; Yilmaz, Mustafa; Kraft, Anke R M; Hoeper, Marius M; et al.
      Cellular and humoral immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is critical to control primary infection and correlates with severity of disease. The role of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell immunity, its relationship to antibodies, and pre-existing immunity against endemic coronaviruses (huCoV), which has been hypothesized to be protective, were investigated in 82 healthy donors (HDs), 204 recovered (RCs), and 92 active COVID-19 patients (ACs). ACs had high amounts of anti-SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid and spike IgG but lymphopenia and overall reduced antiviral T cell responses due to the inflammatory milieu, expression of inhibitory molecules (PD-1, Tim-3) as well as effector caspase-3, -7, and -8 activity in T cells. SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell immunity conferred by polyfunctional, mainly interferon-γ-secreting CD4+ T cells remained stable throughout convalescence, whereas humoral responses declined. Immune responses toward huCoV in RCs with mild disease and strong cellular SARS-CoV-2 T cell reactivity imply a protective role of pre-existing immunity against huCoV.
    • EASL position paper on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in patients with chronic liver diseases, hepatobiliary cancer and liver transplant recipients.

      Cornberg, Markus; Buti, Maria; Eberhardt, Christiane S; Grossi, Paolo Antonio; Shouval, Daniel; CiiM, Zentrum für individualisierte Infektionsmedizin, Feodor-Lynen-Str.7, 30625 Hannover. (Elsevier, 2021-02-06)
      According to a recent World Health Organization estimate, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, which originated in China in 2019, has spread globally, infecting nearly 100 million people worldwide by January 2021. Patients with chronic liver diseases (CLD), particularly cirrhosis, hepatobiliary malignancies, candidates for liver transplantation, and immunosuppressed individuals after liver transplantation appear to be at increased risk of infections in general, which in turn translates into increased mortality. This is also the case for SARS-CoV-2 infection, where patients with cirrhosis, in particular, are at high risk of a severe COVID-19 course. Therefore, vaccination against various pathogens including SARS-CoV-2, administered as early as possible in patients with CLD, is an important protective measure. However, due to impaired immune responses in these patients, the immediate and long-term protective response through immunisation may be incomplete. The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has led to the exceptionally fast development of several vaccine candidates. A small number of these SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates have already undergone phase III, placebo-controlled, clinical trials in healthy individuals with proof of short-term safety, immunogenicity and efficacy. However, although regulatory agencies in the US and Europe have already approved some of these vaccines for clinical use, information on immunogenicity, duration of protection and long-term safety in patients with CLD, cirrhosis, hepatobiliary cancer and liver transplant recipients has yet to be generated. This review summarises the data on vaccine safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy in this patient population in general and discusses the implications of this knowledge on the introduction of the new SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.
    • The Immunological Factors Predisposing to Severe Covid-19 Are Already Present in Healthy Elderly and Men.

      Kilic, Gizem; Bulut, Ozlem; Jaeger, Martin; Ter Horst, Rob; Koeken, Valerie A C M; Moorlag, Simone J C F M; Mourits, Vera P; de Bree, Charlotte; Domínguez-Andrés, Jorge; Joosten, Leo A B; et al. (Frontiers, 2021-08-09)
      Male sex and old age are risk factors for COVID-19 severity, but the underlying causes are unknown. A possible explanation for this might be the differences in immunological profiles in males and the elderly before the infection. With this in mind, we analyzed the abundance of circulating proteins and immune populations associated with severe COVID-19 in 2 healthy cohorts. Besides, given the seasonal profile of COVID-19, the seasonal response against SARS-CoV-2 could also be different in the elderly and males. Therefore, PBMCs of female, male, young, and old subjects in different seasons of the year were stimulated with heat-inactivated SARS-CoV-2 to investigate the season-dependent anti-SARS-CoV-2 immune response. We found that several T cell subsets, which are known to be depleted in severe COVID-19 patients, were intrinsically less abundant in men and older individuals. Plasma proteins increasing with disease severity, including HGF, IL-8, and MCP-1, were more abundant in the elderly and males. Upon in vitro SARS-CoV-2 stimulation, the elderly produced significantly more IL-1RA and had a dysregulated IFNγ response with lower production in the fall compared with young individuals. Our results suggest that the immune characteristics of severe COVID-19, described by a differential abundance of immune cells and circulating inflammatory proteins, are intrinsically present in healthy men and the elderly. This might explain the susceptibility of men and the elderly to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
    • Severe COVID-19 Is Marked by a Dysregulated Myeloid Cell Compartment.

      Schulte-Schrepping, Jonas; Reusch, Nico; Paclik, Daniela; Baßler, Kevin; Schlickeiser, Stephan; Zhang, Bowen; Krämer, Benjamin; Krammer, Tobias; Brumhard, Sophia; Bonaguro, Lorenzo; et al. (Elsevier /Cell Press), 2020-08-05)
      Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a mild to moderate respiratory tract infection, however, a subset of patients progress to severe disease and respiratory failure. The mechanism of protective immunity in mild forms and the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 associated with increased neutrophil counts and dysregulated immune responses remain unclear. In a dual-center, two-cohort study, we combined single-cell RNA-sequencing and single-cell proteomics of whole-blood and peripheral-blood mononuclear cells to determine changes in immune cell composition and activation in mild versus severe COVID-19 (242 samples from 109 individuals) over time. HLA-DRhiCD11chi inflammatory monocytes with an interferon-stimulated gene signature were elevated in mild COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 was marked by occurrence of neutrophil precursors, as evidence of emergency myelopoiesis, dysfunctional mature neutrophils, and HLA-DRlo monocytes. Our study provides detailed insights into the systemic immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and reveals profound alterations in the myeloid cell compartment associated with severe COVID-19.