Immunological memory after cured Sars-CoV-2 infection

Until now, it was unclear whether a survived SARS-CoV-2 infection or COVID-19 leads to a persistent immunological memory and thus can protect against a new infection. Several studies had shown that SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies are only detectable for a few months in many people who have survived COVID-19 and may therefore only provide temporary protection against re-infection. A research team at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg led by Dr. Maike Hofmann, Dr. Christoph Neumann-Haefelin and Prof. Dr. Robert Thimme has now been able to show: after recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection, immune cells are formed which remain in the body and could mediate a rapid immune response in case of re-infection. The Freiburg study was published in the online edition of the renowned scientific journal Nature Medicine on November 12, 2020.

"These so-called memory T-cells after SARS-CoV-2 infection look similar to those after a real flu. We are therefore confident that the majority of people who have survived SARS-CoV-2 infection have some protection against re-infection with SARS-CoV-2," explains Dr. Hofmann, a scientist at the Department of Medicine II at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg.

Professor Thimme, Medical Director of the Department of Medicine II, emphasizes how important a good translational research environment such as that at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg is in the current situation: "In order to obtain robust research results within a few months, close networking between clinic and science at the highest level is a basic requirement: On the one hand, patients with COVID-19 are treated on our wards and continue to be cared for in a special outpatient clinic even after the infection has healed. On the other hand, our clinic has great expertise in the analysis of immune cells in viral infections such as hepatitis B and C."

The Medical Center - University of Freiburg is not involved in the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. However, Dr. Neumann-Haefelin, Head of the Gerok Liver Center at the University Hospital Freiburg, is optimistic: "Our results suggest that immunity against SARS-CoV-2 can be achieved after an infection. Similarly, vaccines currently being tested in trials could provide significant protection against SARS-CoV-2".

"The deciphering of complex immune responses has long been part of the research focus of the University and the Medical Center - University of Freiburg. Thanks to the high scientific quality onsite, we can now make an important contribution to the corona pandemic," says Prof. Dr. Norbert S├╝dkamp, Dean of the Medical Faculty at the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg.

Isabel Schulien, Janine Kemming, Valerie Oberhardt, Katharina Wild, Lea M Seidel, Saskia Killmer, Sagar, Franziska Daul, Marilyn Salvat Lago, Annegrit Decker, Hendrik Luxenburger, Benedikt Binder, Dominik Bettinger, Oezlem Sogukpinar, Siegbert Rieg, Marcus Panning, Daniela Huzly, Martin Schwemmle, Georg Kochs, Cornelius F Waller, Alexandra Nieters, Daniel Duerschmied, Florian Emmerich, Henrik E Mei, Axel Ronald Schulz, Sian Llewellyn-Lacey, David A Price, Tobias Boettler, Bertram Bengsch, Robert Thimme, Maike Hofmann, Christoph Neumann-Haefelin.
Characterization of pre-existing and induced SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cells.
Nature Medicine, 2020. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-01143-2

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