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T cells can contribute to clearance of respiratory viruses that cause acute-resolving infections such as SARS-CoV-2, helping to provide long-lived protection against disease. Recent studies have suggested an additional role for T cells in resisting overt infection: pre-existing cross-reactive responses were preferentially enriched in healthcare workers who had abortive infections1, and in household contacts protected from infection2. We hypothesize that such early viral control would require pre-existing cross-reactive memory T cells already resident at the site of infection; such airway-resident responses have been shown to be critical for mediating protection after intranasal vaccination in a murine model of SARS-CoV3. Bronchoalveolar lavage samples from the lower respiratory tract of healthy donors obtained before the COVID-19 pandemic revealed airway-resident, SARS-CoV-2-cross-reactive T cells, which correlated with the strength of human seasonal coronavirus immunity. We therefore demonstrate the potential to harness functional airway-resident SARS-CoV-2-reactive T cells in next-generation mucosal vaccines.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Immunol

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