While early research on the adaptive immune response to COVID-19 primarily looked at antibodies, more information is now emerging on how T cells react to the SARS-CoV-2 virus - addressing a crucial knowledge gap, say Daniel Altmann and Rosemary Boyton in a new Perspective.
While antibody responses are generally much easier to study, T cells are known to play a more important role in protecting the body against viral infections. In the context of COVID-19, "antibody responses appear short-lived and T cell memory is potentially more durable," Altmann and Boyton say, leading them to argue that "it's time to admit that we really need the T cell data too." Seeking to assess the current state of knowledge on how T cells respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the authors selected 9 studies - some published in peer-reviewed journals, while others are still under review and available as preprints - and summarized key takeaways and emerging points of consensus. "To fully understand population level immunity, screening for both antibody and T cell immunity using standardized testing methods would be beneficial," Altmann and Boyton conclude, noting that standardized tests to measure T cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2 could be designed using methods in common with established tests for T cell immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Altmann, D.M & Boyton, R.J (2020) SARS-CoV-2 T cell immunity: Specificity, function, durability, and role in protection. Science Immunology. doi.org/10.1126/sciimmunol.abd6160.