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Distinct T cell polyfunctional profile in SARS-CoV-2 seronegative children associated with endemic human coronavirus cross-reactivity
journal contributionposted on 2024-01-15, 14:56 authored by N Benede, MB Tincho, A Walters, V Subbiah, A Ngomti, R Baguma, C Butters, L Hahnle, M Mennen, S Skelem, M Adriaanse, H Facey-Thomas, C Scott, J Day, TF Spracklen, S van Graan, SR Balla, T Moyo-Gwete, PL Moore, R MacGinty, M Botha, L Workman, M Johnson, D Goldblatt, HJ Zar, NAB Ntusi, L Zühlke, K Webb, C Riou, WA Burgers, RS Keeton
SARS-CoV-2 infection in children typically results in asymptomatic or mild disease. There is a paucity of studies on SARS-CoV-2 antiviral immunity in African children. We investigated SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses in 71 unvaccinated asymptomatic South African children who were seropositive or seronegative for SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ T cell responses were detectable in 83% of seropositive and 60% of seronegative children. Although the magnitude of the CD4+ T cell response did not differ significantly between the two groups, their functional profiles were distinct, with SARS-CoV-2 seropositive children exhibiting a higher proportion of polyfunctional T cells compared to their seronegative counterparts. The frequency of SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ T cells in seronegative children was associated with the endemic human coronavirus (HCoV) HKU1 IgG response. Overall, the presence of SARS-CoV-2-responding T cells in seronegative children may result from cross-reactivity to endemic coronaviruses and could contribute to the relative protection from disease observed in SARS-CoV-2-infected children.