Understanding the role of the immune response against SARS-CoV-2 in recovery from infection is critical for identifying people who have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and for determining whether the immune response confers protection against future infection. It is also critical for design and development of effective vaccines and immune-based treatments against SARS-CoV-2.
We plan to systematically assess the strength, specificity, nature and durability of antibody and cellular immune responses generated against SARS-CoV-2 in relation to severity of infection. To do this, we will recruit individuals deemed to have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection and additionally test their close contacts to identify individuals who had very mild or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. With blood samples obtained from these subjects and from persons hospitalized for SARS-CoV-2 infection, we will test and compare how their antibodies and immune cells interact with SARS-CoV-2 proteins how these interactions affect SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture and how these interactions change over time.
These experiments should identify parts of the virus targeted by successful immune responses, parts of the virus targeted by detrimental immune responses and the strength required of successful immune responses. Analysis of these data will help guide vaccine design and evaluation. Testing the ability of antibodies from recovered persons to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 growth in cell culture will provide criteria for identifying the best candidates for donation of convalescent plasma to treat SARS-CoV-2-infected persons with severe disease.