Longitudinal Analysis of Memory T-Cell Responses in Survivors of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Hyoung Shik Shin, Yeonjae Kim, Jihye Kang, Jihye Um, Jun Sun Park, Wan Beom Park, Yeon Sook Kim, Jae Phil Choi, Ji Young Rhee, Joon Sung Joh, Nam Hyuk Cho, Jeong Sun Yang, Joo Yeon Lee, Dong Gyun Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a highly lethal respiratory disease caused by a zoonotic betacoronavirus. The development of effective vaccines and control measures requires a thorough understanding of the immune response to this viral infection. METHODS: We investigated cellular immune responses up to 5 years after infection in a cohort of 59 MERS survivors by performing enzyme-linked immunospot assay and intracellular cytokine staining after stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with synthetic viral peptides. RESULTS: Memory T-cell responses were detected in 82%, 75%, 69%, 64%, and 64% of MERS survivors from 1-5 years post-infection, respectively. Although the frequency of virus-specific interferon gamma (IFN-γ)-secreting T cells tended to be higher in moderately/severely ill patients than in mildly ill patients during the early period of follow-up, there was no significant difference among the different clinical severity groups across all time points. While both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were involved in memory T-cell responses, CD4+ T cells persisted slightly longer than CD8+ T cells. Both memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells recognized the E/M/N proteins better than the S protein and maintained their polyfunctionality throughout the period examined. Memory T-cell responses correlated positively with antibody responses during the initial 3-4 years but not with maximum viral loads at any time point. CONCLUSIONS: These findings advance our understanding of the dynamics of virus-specific memory T-cell immunity after MERS-coronavirus infection, which is relevant to the development of effective T cell-based vaccines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-603
Number of pages8
JournalClinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 10 Sep 2022


  • MERS-CoV
  • longitudinal analysis
  • memory T cells


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