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Front Immunol


Exposure of Primary Human T Cells and Monocytes to Polyclonal Stimuli Reveals a Basal Susceptibility to Display an Impaired Cellular Immune Response and Develop Severe COVID-19.


Viurcos-Sanabria R, Manjarrez-Reyna AN, Solleiro-Villavicencio H, Rizo-Téllez SA, Méndez-García LA, Viurcos-Sanabria V, González-Sanabria J, Arroyo-Valerio A, Carrillo-Ruíz JD, González-Chávez A, León-Pedroza JI, Flores-Mejía R, Rodríguez-Cortés O, Escobedo G
Front Immunol. 2022; 13:897995.
PMID: 35860236.


The contribution of the cellular immune response to the severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is still uncertain because most evidence comes from patients receiving multiple drugs able to change immune function. Herein, we conducted a prospective cohort study and obtained blood samples from 128 unvaccinated healthy volunteers to examine the response pattern of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and monocyte subsets to polyclonal stimuli, including anti-CD3, anti-CD28, poly I:C, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) recombinant spike S1 protein, and lipopolysaccharide. Then, we started a six-month follow-up and registered 12 participants who got SARS-CoV-2 infection, from whom we retrospectively analyzed the basal immune response pattern of T cells and monocytes. Of the 12 participants infected, six participants developed mild COVID-19 with self-limiting symptoms such as fever, headache, and anosmia. Conversely, six other participants developed severe COVID-19 with pneumonia, respiratory distress, and hypoxia. Two severe COVID-19 cases required invasive mechanical ventilation. There were no differences between mild and severe cases for demographic, clinical, and biochemical baseline characteristics. In response to polyclonal stimuli, basal production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon (IFN-) gamma significantly decreased, and the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) increased in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from participants who posteriorly developed severe COVID-19 compared to mild cases. Likewise, CD14++CD16- classical and CD14+CD16+ non-classical monocytes lost their ability to produce IFN-alpha in response to polyclonal stimuli in participants who developed severe COVID-19 compared to mild cases. Of note, neither the total immunoglobulin G serum titers against the virus nor their neutralizing ability differed between mild and severe cases after a month of clinical recovery. In conclusion, using polyclonal stimuli, we found a basal immune response pattern associated with a predisposition to developing severe COVID-19, where high PD-1 expression and low IL-2 and IFN-gamma production in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, and poor IFN-alpha expression in classical and non-classical monocytes are linked to disease worsening. Since antibody titers did not differ between mild and severe cases, these findings suggest cellular immunity may play a more crucial role than humoral immunity in preventing COVID-19 progression.