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J Immunol. 2011 Jun 15;186(12):7264-8. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0903490. Epub 2011 May 16.

Lack of peripheral memory B cell responses in recovered patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome: a six-year follow-up study.

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State Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity, Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, Beijing 100071, People's Republic of China.


Six years have passed since the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Previous studies indicated that specific Abs to SARS-related coronavirus (SARS-CoV) waned over time in recovered SARS patients. It is critical to find out whether a potential anamnestic response, as seen with other viral infections, exists to protect a person from reinfection in case of another SARS outbreak. Recovered SARS patients were followed up to 6 y to estimate the longevity of specific Ab. The specific memory B cell and T cell responses to SARS-CoV Ags were measured by means of ELISPOT assay. Factors in relation to humoral and cellular immunity were investigated. Six years postinfection, specific IgG Ab to SARS-CoV became undetectable in 21 of the 23 former patients. No SARS-CoV Ag-specific memory B cell response was detected in either 23 former SARS patients or 22 close contacts of SARS patients. Memory T cell responses to a pool of SARS-CoV S peptides were identified in 14 of 23 (60.9%) recovered SARS patients, whereas there was no such specific response in either close contacts or healthy controls. Patients with more severe clinical manifestations seemed to present a higher level of Ag-specific memory T cell response. SARS-specific IgG Ab may eventually vanish and peripheral memory B cell responses are undetectable in recovered SARS patients. In contrast, specific T cell anamnestic responses can be maintained for at least 6 y. These findings have applications in preparation for the possible reemergence of SARS.

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