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Körber, Nina; Priller, Alina; Yazici, Sarah; Bauer, Tanja; Cheng, Cho-Chin; Mijocevic, Hrvoje; Wintersteller, Hannah; Jeske, Samuel; Vogel, Emanuel; Feuerherd, Martin; Tinnefeld, Kathrin; Winter, Christof; Ruland, Jürgen; Gerhard, Markus; Haller, Bernhard; Christa, Catharina; Zelger, Otto; Roggendorf, Hedwig; Halle, Martin; Erber, Johanna; Lingor, Paul; Keppler, Oliver; Zehn, Dietmar; Protzer, Ulrike and Knolle, Percy A. (2022): Dynamics of spike-and nucleocapsid specific immunity during long-term follow-up and vaccination of SARS-CoV-2 convalescents. In: Nature Communications, Vol. 13, No. 1, 153

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Anti-viral immunity continuously declines over time after SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here, we characterize the dynamics of anti-viral immunity during long-term follow-up and after BNT162b2 mRNA-vaccination in convalescents after asymptomatic or mild SARS-CoV-2 infection. Virus-specific and virus-neutralizing antibody titers rapidly declined in convalescents over 9 months after infection, whereas virus-specific cytokine-producing polyfunctional T cells persisted, among which IL-2-producing T cells correlated with virus-neutralizing antibody titers. Among convalescents, 5% of individuals failed to mount long-lasting immunity after infection and showed a delayed response to vaccination compared to 1% of naive vaccinees, but successfully responded to prime/boost vaccination. During the follow-up period, 8% of convalescents showed a selective increase in virus-neutralizing antibody titers without accompanying increased frequencies of circulating SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells. The same convalescents, however, responded to vaccination with simultaneous increase in antibody and T cell immunity revealing the strength of mRNA-vaccination to increase virus-specific immunity in convalescents.

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