07/15 News Flash 1: Lessons for COVID-19 immunity from other coronavirus infections

Image courtesy of NASA.

Despite dozens of COVID-19 vaccine candidates entering clinical trials, vaccine research is only as trustworthy as the availability of information about the virus itself. While the basic structure of SARS-CoV-2 has been resolved, there is still much to learn about how the virus interacts with and responds to our bodies’ complex immune system.

According to a recent article published in Immunity, examining the immune responses of coronaviruses (CoVs) similar in structure, evolutionary history, and transmission patterns could provide contextual clues to achieving COVID-19 immunity. For one, common cold CoVs and MERS—two CoVs closely related to SARS-CoV-2—exhibit antibody responses that rapidly wane following infection or immunization. This, along with recent news about cases of COVID-19 reinfection, provides reason for booster doses when considering vaccination strategies for COVID-19. The study proposes several other possible characteristics of COVID-19 immunity, including immune evasion mechanisms that can lead to pathogenesis, the role of T cells in mitigating cytokine storms, and the importance of IgA-driven immune responses in the respiratory tract and lungs.