Dissecting the immune response to SARS-CoV2 infection

COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection, can assume a highly variable disease course, ranging from asymptomatic infection, which constitutes the majority of cases, to severe respiratory failure. This implies a diverse host immune response to SARS-CoV-2. However, the immunological underpinnings underlying these divergent disease courses remain elusive. We therefore set out to longitudinally characterize immune signatures of convalescent COVID-19 patients stratified according to their disease severity. Our unique convalescent COVID-19 cohort consists of 74 patients not confounded by comorbidities. This is the first study of which we are aware that excludes immune abrogations associated with non-SARS-CoV-2 related risk factors of disease severity. Patients were followed up and analyzed longitudinally (2, 4 and 6 weeks after infection) by high-dimensional flow cytometric profiling of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), in-depth serum analytics, and transcriptomics. Immune phenotypes were correlated to disease severity. Convalescence was overall associated with uniform immune signatures, but distinct immune signatures for mildly versus severely affected patients were detectable within a 2-week time window after infection.