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 naïve 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.
GrantsState Ministry of Education and Culture, Science and the Arts | Elitenetzwerk Bayern (Elite Network of Bavaria) Helmholtz Association Bayerische Forschungsstiftung (Bavarian Research Foundation) Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (German Center for Infection Research) Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation)