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Press release: Protective T cells remain 20 months after COVID-19

Patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop protective immune responses, mediated by virus-specific T cells and antibodies, shortly after the infection. There is concern, however, that immunity does not persist over time, which may translate into severe COVID-19 upon re-infection.

In the July, 12 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Anna Martner and co-authors at University of Gothenburg report two main findings. First, several variants of virus-specific T cells became detectable in blood shortly after COVID-19, but strikingly disappeared after 10-12 weeks.

However, a group of highly specialized T cells, designed to facilitate elimination of infected cells, remained active in the blood of all previously SARS-CoV-2-infected patients. These T cells did not disappear or wane even at long follow-up. Figure 1 is a schematic representation of the results.

Figure 1. Th1 cells remain active against SARS-CoV-2 for at least 20 months after infection.

On June 9 Belson Rugwizangoga, PhD-student in the Martner lab, defended his thesis “Aspects of infection and leukemia in Rwanda”. Faculty oponent Ludmila Prokunina-Olsson, known for the discovery of interferon lambda, joined via zoom

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