A scoping review of regulatory T cell dynamics in convalescent COVID-19 patients – indications for their potential involvement in the development of Long COVID?
Background: Recovery from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can be impaired by the persistence of symptoms or new-onset health complications, commonly referred to as Long COVID. In a subset of patients, Long COVID is associated with immune system perturbations of unknown etiology, which could be related to compromised immunoregulatory mechanisms. Objective: The objective of this scoping review was to summarize the existing literature regarding the frequency and functionality of Tregs in convalescent COVID-19 patients and to explore indications for their potential involvement in the development of Long COVID Design: A systematic search of studies investigating Tregs during COVID-19 convalescence was conducted on MEDLINE (via Pubmed) and Web of Science. Results: The literature search yielded 17 relevant studies, of which three included a distinct cohort of patients with Long COVID. The reviewed studies suggest that the Treg population of COVID-19 patients can reconstitute quantitatively and functionally during recovery. However, the comparison between recovered and seronegative controls revealed that an infectioninduced dysregulation of the Treg compartment can be sustained for at least several months. The small number of studies investigating Tregs in Long COVID allowed no firm conclusions to be drawn about their involvement in the syndrome’s etiology. Yet, even almost one year post-infection Long COVID patients exhibit significantly altered proportions of Tregs within the CD4+ T cell population. Conclusions: Persistent alterations in cell frequency in Long COVID patients indicate that Treg dysregulation might be linked to immune system-associated sequelae. Future studies should aim to address the association of Treg adaptations with different symptom clusters and blood parameters beyond the sole quantification of cell frequencies while adhering to consensualized phenotyping strategies.