Publications by authors named "Stephanie Fischinger"

50 Publications

Sexually dimorphic placental responses to maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection.

bioRxiv 2021 Mar 29. Epub 2021 Mar 29.

There is a persistent male bias in the prevalence and severity of COVID-19 disease. Underlying mechanisms accounting for this sex difference remain incompletely understood. Interferon responses have been implicated as a modulator of disease in adults, and play a key role in the placental anti-viral response. Moreover, the interferon response has been shown to alter Fc-receptor expression, and therefore may impact placental antibody transfer. Here we examined the intersection of viral-induced placental interferon responses, maternal-fetal antibody transfer, and fetal sex. Placental interferon stimulated genes (ISGs), Fc-receptor expression, and SARS-CoV-2 antibody transfer were interrogated in 68 pregnancies. Sexually dimorphic placental expression of ISGs, interleukin-10, and Fc receptors was observed following maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection, with upregulation in males. Reduced maternal SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody titers and impaired placental antibody transfer were noted in pregnancies with a male fetus. These results demonstrate fetal sex-specific maternal and placental adaptive and innate immune responses to SARS-CoV-2.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.03.29.437516DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8020979PMC
March 2021

Vaccination with SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein and AS03 Adjuvant Induces Rapid Anamnestic Antibodies in the Lung and Protects Against Virus Challenge in Nonhuman Primates.

bioRxiv 2021 Mar 2. Epub 2021 Mar 2.

Adjuvanted soluble protein vaccines have been used extensively in humans for protection against various viral infections based on their robust induction of antibody responses. Here, soluble prefusion-stabilized spike trimers (preS dTM) from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) were formulated with the adjuvant AS03 and administered twice to nonhuman primates (NHP). Binding and functional neutralization assays and systems serology revealed that NHP developed AS03-dependent multi-functional humoral responses that targeted multiple spike domains and bound to a variety of antibody F receptors mediating effector functions . Pseudovirus and live virus neutralizing IC titers were on average greater than 1000 and significantly higher than a panel of human convalescent sera. NHP were challenged intranasally and intratracheally with a high dose (3×10 PFU) of SARS-CoV-2 (USA-WA1/2020 isolate). Two days post-challenge, vaccinated NHP showed rapid control of viral replication in both the upper and lower airways. Notably, vaccinated NHP also had increased spike-specific IgG antibody responses in the lung as early as 2 days post challenge. Moreover, vaccine-induced IgG mediated protection from SARS-CoV-2 challenge following passive transfer to hamsters. These data show that antibodies induced by the AS03-adjuvanted preS dTM vaccine are sufficient to mediate protection against SARS-CoV-2 and support the evaluation of this vaccine in human clinical trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.03.02.433390DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7941623PMC
March 2021

Persistence of viral RNA in lymph nodes in ART-suppressed SIV/SHIV-infected Rhesus Macaques.

Nat Commun 2021 03 5;12(1):1474. Epub 2021 Mar 5.

Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02215, USA.

The establishment of a long-lived viral reservoir is the key obstacle for achieving an HIV-1 cure. However, the anatomic, virologic, and immunologic features of the viral reservoir in tissues during antiretroviral therapy (ART) remain poorly understood. Here we present a comprehensive necroscopic analysis of the SIV/SHIV viral reservoir in multiple lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues from SIV/SHIV-infected rhesus macaques suppressed with ART for one year. Viral DNA is observed broadly in multiple tissues and is comparable in animals that had initiated ART at week 1 or week 52 of infection. In contrast, viral RNA is restricted primarily to lymph nodes. Ongoing viral RNA transcription is not the result of unsuppressed viral replication, as single-genome amplification and subsequent phylogenetic analysis do not show evidence of viral evolution. Gag-specific CD8+ T cell responses are predominantly observed in secondary lymphoid organs in animals chronically infected prior to ART and these responses are dominated by CD69+ populations. Overall, we observe that the viral reservoir in rhesus macaques is widely distributed across multiple tissue sites and that lymphoid tissues act as a site of persistent viral RNA transcription under conditions of long-term ART suppression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21724-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7935896PMC
March 2021

A modified vaccinia Ankara vector-based vaccine protects macaques from SARS-CoV-2 infection, immune pathology, and dysfunction in the lungs.

Immunity 2021 03 4;54(3):542-556.e9. Epub 2021 Feb 4.

Emory Vaccine Center, Division of Microbiology and Immunology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA; Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. Electronic address:

A combination of vaccination approaches will likely be necessary to fully control the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. Here, we show that modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vectors expressing membrane-anchored pre-fusion stabilized spike (MVA/S) but not secreted S1 induced strong neutralizing antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 in mice. In macaques, the MVA/S vaccination induced strong neutralizing antibodies and CD8 T cell responses, and conferred protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection and virus replication in the lungs as early as day 2 following intranasal and intratracheal challenge. Single-cell RNA sequencing analysis of lung cells on day 4 after infection revealed that MVA/S vaccination also protected macaques from infection-induced inflammation and B cell abnormalities and lowered induction of interferon-stimulated genes. These results demonstrate that MVA/S vaccination induces neutralizing antibodies and CD8 T cells in the blood and lungs and is a potential vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-2.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2021.02.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7859620PMC
March 2021

Comorbid illnesses are associated with altered adaptive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2.

JCI Insight 2021 03 22;6(6). Epub 2021 Mar 22.

Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA.

Comorbid medical illnesses, such as obesity and diabetes, are associated with more severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death. However, the role of the immune system in mediating these clinical outcomes has not been determined. We used multiparameter flow cytometry and systems serology to comprehensively profile the functions of T cells and antibodies targeting spike, nucleocapsid, and envelope proteins in a convalescent cohort of COVID-19 subjects who were either hospitalized (n = 20) or not hospitalized (n = 40). To avoid confounding, subjects were matched by age, sex, ethnicity, and date of symptom onset. Surprisingly, we found that the magnitude and functional breadth of virus-specific CD4+ T cell and antibody responses were consistently higher among hospitalized subjects, particularly those with medical comorbidities. However, an integrated analysis identified more coordination between polyfunctional CD4+ T cells and antibodies targeting the S1 domain of spike among subjects who were not hospitalized. These data reveal a functionally diverse and coordinated response between T cells and antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2, which is reduced in the presence of comorbid illnesses that are known risk factors for severe COVID-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.146242DOI Listing
March 2021

Adjuvanting a subunit SARS-CoV-2 nanoparticle vaccine to induce protective immunity in non-human primates.

bioRxiv 2021 Feb 11. Epub 2021 Feb 11.

The development of a portfolio of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines to vaccinate the global population remains an urgent public health imperative. Here, we demonstrate the capacity of a subunit vaccine under clinical development, comprising the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein receptor-binding domain displayed on a two-component protein nanoparticle (RBD-NP), to stimulate robust and durable neutralizing antibody (nAb) responses and protection against SARS-CoV-2 in non-human primates. We evaluated five different adjuvants combined with RBD-NP including Essai O/W 1849101, a squalene-in-water emulsion; AS03, an alpha-tocopherol-containing squalene-based oil-in-water emulsion used in pandemic influenza vaccines; AS37, a TLR-7 agonist adsorbed to Alum; CpG 1018-Alum (CpG-Alum), a TLR-9 agonist formulated in Alum; or Alum, the most widely used adjuvant. All five adjuvants induced substantial nAb and CD4 T cell responses after two consecutive immunizations. Durable nAb responses were evaluated for RBD-NP/AS03 immunization and the live-virus nAb response was durably maintained up to 154 days post-vaccination. AS03, CpG-Alum, AS37 and Alum groups conferred significant protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in the pharynges, nares and in the bronchoalveolar lavage. The nAb titers were highly correlated with protection against infection. Furthermore, RBD-NP when used in conjunction with AS03 was as potent as the prefusion stabilized Spike immunogen, HexaPro. Taken together, these data highlight the efficacy of the RBD-NP formulated with clinically relevant adjuvants in promoting robust immunity against SARS-CoV-2 in non-human primates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.10.430696DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7885918PMC
February 2021

Humoral signatures of protective and pathological SARS-CoV-2 infection in children.

Nat Med 2021 03 12;27(3):454-462. Epub 2021 Feb 12.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, USA.

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic continues to spread relentlessly, associated with a high frequency of respiratory failure and mortality. Children experience largely asymptomatic disease, with rare reports of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Identifying immune mechanisms that result in these disparate clinical phenotypes in children could provide critical insights into coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pathogenesis. Using systems serology, in this study we observed in 25 children with acute mild COVID-19 a functional phagocyte and complement-activating IgG response to SARS-CoV-2, similar to the acute responses generated in adults with mild disease. Conversely, IgA and neutrophil responses were significantly expanded in adults with severe disease. Moreover, weeks after the resolution of SARS-CoV-2 infection, children who develop MIS-C maintained highly inflammatory monocyte-activating SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies, distinguishable from acute disease in children but with antibody levels similar to those in convalescent adults. Collectively, these data provide unique insights into the potential mechanisms of IgG and IgA that might underlie differential disease severity as well as unexpected complications in children infected with SARS-CoV-2.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41591-021-01263-3DOI Listing
March 2021

Discrete SARS-CoV-2 antibody titers track with functional humoral stability.

Nat Commun 2021 02 15;12(1):1018. Epub 2021 Feb 15.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Antibodies serve as biomarkers of infection, but if sustained can confer long-term immunity. Yet, for most clinically approved vaccines, binding antibody titers only serve as a surrogate of protection. Instead, the ability of vaccine induced antibodies to neutralize or mediate Fc-effector functions is mechanistically linked to protection. While evidence has begun to point to persisting antibody responses among SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals, cases of re-infection have begun to emerge, calling the protective nature of humoral immunity against this highly infectious pathogen into question. Using a community-based surveillance study, we aimed to define the relationship between titers and functional antibody activity to SARS-CoV-2 over time. Here we report significant heterogeneity, but limited decay, across antibody titers amongst 120 identified seroconverters, most of whom had asymptomatic infection. Notably, neutralization, Fc-function, and SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell responses were only observed in subjects that elicited RBD-specific antibody titers above a threshold. The findings point to a switch-like relationship between observed antibody titer and function, where a distinct threshold of activity-defined by the level of antibodies-is required to elicit vigorous humoral and cellular response. This response activity level may be essential for durable protection, potentially explaining why re-infections occur with SARS-CoV-2 and other common coronaviruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21336-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7884400PMC
February 2021

Targeting HIV Env immunogens to B cell follicles in nonhuman primates through immune complex or protein nanoparticle formulations.

NPJ Vaccines 2020 Aug 5;5(1):72. Epub 2020 Aug 5.

Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA.

Following immunization, high-affinity antibody responses develop within germinal centers (GCs), specialized sites within follicles of the lymph node (LN) where B cells proliferate and undergo somatic hypermutation. Antigen availability within GCs is important, as B cells must acquire and present antigen to follicular helper T cells to drive this process. However, recombinant protein immunogens such as soluble human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) envelope (Env) trimers do not efficiently accumulate in follicles following traditional immunization. Here, we demonstrate two strategies to concentrate HIV Env immunogens in follicles, via the formation of immune complexes (ICs) or by employing self-assembling protein nanoparticles for multivalent display of Env antigens. Using rhesus macaques, we show that within a few days following immunization, free trimers were present in a diffuse pattern in draining LNs, while trimer ICs and Env nanoparticles accumulated in B cell follicles. Whole LN imaging strikingly revealed that ICs and trimer nanoparticles concentrated in as many as 500 follicles in a single LN within two days after immunization. Imaging of LNs collected seven days postimmunization showed that Env nanoparticles persisted on follicular dendritic cells in the light zone of nascent GCs. These findings suggest that the form of antigen administered in vaccination can dramatically impact localization in lymphoid tissues and provides a new rationale for the enhanced immune responses observed following immunization with ICs or nanoparticles.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41541-020-00223-1DOI Listing
August 2020

Production of HIV-1 Env-specific antibodies mediating innate immune functions depends on cognate IL-21- secreting CD4+ T cells.

J Virol 2021 Jan 27. Epub 2021 Jan 27.

Institute of Virology, University Hospital, University of Bonn, Germany, and German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), partner site Bonn-Cologne, Germany

Antibodies with a functional Fc region were previously associated with protection from HIV-1 acquisition and spontaneous suppression of viral replication. Unlike broadly neutralizing antibodies, they are not restricted to neutralizing epitopes and do not require unconventional structural traits to exert their antiviral activity. They, therefore, develop earlier after infection and can be detected in the majority of cases. The conditions under which these antibodies are generated, however, remain largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that the generation of HIV-1 Env-specific antibodies facilitating Fc-dependent innate immune responses, including neutrophil phagocytosis (ADNP), complement deposition (ADCD), and NK cell activation, likely depends on help provided by CD4+ T and peripheral T follicular helper (pTfh) cells secreting IL-21. Other proteins, including CD40L, IFNγ, and IL-4/13, involved in crosstalk between B and T cells were linked to the production of antibodies with functional Fc region but only when co-expressed with IL-21. As a potential source of these antibodies, we identified a subset of Env-specific memory B cells known to be expanded in chronic HIV-1 infection. The frequency and level of Blimp-1 expression in Env-specific tissue-like memory B cells (TLM) correlated with the functional CD4+ T cell subsets associated with robust antibody-dependent innate responses. Thus, our data suggest a mechanism responsible for the generation of antibodies with functional Fc region in chronically HIV-1 infected individuals that is based on CD4+ T cell-induced activation of memory B cells. To develop a vaccine or immunotherapy that would cure the HIV-1 infection it is important to identify helper T cells able to mount an efficient antibody response. Here, we demonstrate that the generation of HIV-1 Env-specific antibodies facilitating antibody-dependent innate immune responses likely depends on Env-specific IL-21-secreting CD4+ T and peripheral T follicular helper cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.02097-20DOI Listing
January 2021

Compromised SARS-CoV-2-specific placental antibody transfer.

Cell 2021 02 23;184(3):628-642.e10. Epub 2020 Dec 23.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. Electronic address:

SARS-CoV-2 infection causes more severe disease in pregnant women compared to age-matched non-pregnant women. Whether maternal infection causes changes in the transfer of immunity to infants remains unclear. Maternal infections have previously been associated with compromised placental antibody transfer, but the mechanism underlying this compromised transfer is not established. Here, we used systems serology to characterize the Fc profile of influenza-, pertussis-, and SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies transferred across the placenta. Influenza- and pertussis-specific antibodies were actively transferred. However, SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody transfer was significantly reduced compared to influenza- and pertussis-specific antibodies, and cord titers and functional activity were lower than in maternal plasma. This effect was only observed in third-trimester infection. SARS-CoV-2-specific transfer was linked to altered SARS-CoV-2-antibody glycosylation profiles and was partially rescued by infection-induced increases in IgG and increased FCGR3A placental expression. These results point to unexpected compensatory mechanisms to boost immunity in neonates, providing insights for maternal vaccine design.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.12.027DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7755577PMC
February 2021

Dissecting strategies to tune the therapeutic potential of SARS-CoV-2-specific monoclonal antibody CR3022.

JCI Insight 2021 01 11;6(1). Epub 2021 Jan 11.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

The rapid spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), coupled with a lack of therapeutics, has paralyzed the globe. Although significant effort has been invested in identifying antibodies that block infection, the ability of antibodies to target infected cells through Fc interactions may be vital to eliminate the virus. To explore the role of Fc activity in SARS-CoV-2 immunity, the functional potential of a cross-SARS-reactive antibody, CR3022, was assessed. CR3022 was able to broadly drive antibody effector functions, providing critical immune clearance at entry and upon egress. Using selectively engineered Fc variants, no protection was observed after administration of WT IgG1 in mice or hamsters. Conversely, the functionally enhanced Fc variant resulted in increased pathology in both the mouse and hamster models, causing weight loss in mice and enhanced viral replication and weight loss in the more susceptible hamster model, highlighting the pathological functions of Fc-enhancing mutations. These data point to the critical need for strategic Fc engineering for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.143129DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7821590PMC
January 2021

Liver Fibrosis Index FIB-4 Is Associated With Mortality in COVID-19.

Hepatol Commun 2020 Dec 10. Epub 2020 Dec 10.

Division of Infectious Diseases Brigham and Women's Hospital Harvard Medical School Boston MA USA.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with adverse outcomes, including need for invasive mechanical ventilation and death in people with risk factors. Liver enzyme elevation is commonly seen in this group, but its clinical significance remains elusive. In this study, we calculated the Fibrosis-4 (FIB-4) score for a cohort of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and assessed its association with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA, inflammatory cytokine levels, and clinical outcome. A total of 202 hospitalized participants who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 by nasopharyngeal sampling were included in this analysis. FIB-4 was calculated for each participant using the alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, age, and platelet count. We evaluated the association between FIB-4 and mortality using both multivariate logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards model. Correlations between FIB-4 and SARS-CoV-2 RNA and cytokine levels were evaluated using the Spearman test. Among the 202 participants, 22 died. The median FIB-4 in participants who survived and died were 1.91 and 3.98 ( < 0.001 by Mann-Whitney U test), respectively. Each one-unit increment in FIB-4 was associated with an increased odds of death (odds ratio, 1.79; 95% confidence interval, 1.36, 2.35;  < 0.001) after adjusting for baseline characteristics including sex, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes, and history of liver diseases. During hospitalization, FIB-4 peaked and then normalized in the survival group but failed to normalize in the death group. FIB-4 was positively correlated with the level of SARS-CoV-2 viral load and monocyte-associated cytokines, especially interleukin-6 and interferon gamma-induced protein 10. FIB-4 is associated with mortality in COVID-19, independent of underlying conditions including liver diseases. FIB-4 may be a simple and inexpensive approach to risk-stratify individuals with COVID-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep4.1650DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7753559PMC
December 2020

HIV Antibody Fc N-Linked Glycosylation Is Associated with Viral Rebound.

Cell Rep 2020 Dec;33(11):108502

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. Electronic address:

Changes in antibody glycosylation are linked to inflammation across several diseases. Alterations in bulk antibody galactosylation can predict rheumatic flares, act as a sensor for immune activation, predict gastric cancer relapse, track with biological age, shift with vaccination, change with HIV reservoir size on therapy, and decrease in HIV and HCV infections. However, whether changes in antibody Fc biology also track with reservoir rebound time remains unclear. The identification of a biomarker that could forecast viral rebound time could significantly accelerate the downselection and iterative improvement of promising HIV viral eradication strategies. Using a comprehensive antibody Fc-profiling approach, the level of HIV-specific antibody Fc N-galactosylation is significantly associated with time to rebound after treatment discontinuation across three independent cohorts. Thus virus-specific antibody glycosylation may represent a promising, simply measured marker to track reservoir reactivation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108502DOI Listing
December 2020

T cell and antibody functional correlates of severe COVID-19.

medRxiv 2020 Nov 30. Epub 2020 Nov 30.

Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA.

Comorbid medical illnesses, such as obesity and diabetes, are associated with more severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death. However, the role of the immune system in mediating these clinical outcomes has not been determined. We used multi-parameter flow cytometry and systems serology to comprehensively profile the functions of T cells and antibodies targeting spike, nucleocapsid, and envelope proteins in a convalescent cohort of COVID-19 subjects who were either hospitalized (n=20) or not hospitalized (n=40). To avoid confounding, subjects were matched by age, sex, ethnicity, and date of symptom onset. Surprisingly, we found that the magnitude and functional breadth of virus-specific CD4 T cell and antibody responses were consistently higher among hospitalized subjects, particularly those with medical comorbidities. However, an integrated analysis identified more coordination between polyfunctional CD4 T-cells and antibodies targeting the S1 domain of spike among subjects that were not hospitalized. These data reveal a functionally diverse and coordinated response between T cells and antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 which is reduced in the presence of comorbid illnesses that are known risk factors for severe COVID-19. Our data suggest that isolated measurements of the magnitudes of spike-specific immune responses are likely insufficient to anticipate vaccine efficacy in high-risk populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.11.25.20235150DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7709190PMC
November 2020

Compromised Humoral Functional Evolution Tracks with SARS-CoV-2 Mortality.

Cell 2020 12 3;183(6):1508-1519.e12. Epub 2020 Nov 3.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, USA. Electronic address:

The urgent need for an effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine has forced development to progress in the absence of well-defined correlates of immunity. While neutralization has been linked to protection against other pathogens, whether neutralization alone will be sufficient to drive protection against SARS-CoV-2 in the broader population remains unclear. Therefore, to fully define protective humoral immunity, we dissected the early evolution of the humoral response in 193 hospitalized individuals ranging from moderate to severe. Although robust IgM and IgA responses evolved in both survivors and non-survivors with severe disease, non-survivors showed attenuated IgG responses, accompanied by compromised Fcɣ receptor binding and Fc effector activity, pointing to deficient humoral development rather than disease-enhancing humoral immunity. In contrast, individuals with moderate disease exhibited delayed responses that ultimately matured. These data highlight distinct humoral trajectories associated with resolution of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the need for early functional humoral immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.052DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7608014PMC
December 2020

Epidemiological and immunological features of obesity and SARS-CoV-2.

medRxiv 2020 Nov 13. Epub 2020 Nov 13.

Obesity is established as a key correlate of severe SARS-CoV-2 outcomes. Multiple other epidemiological and immunological features are less well-defined including if obesity enhances susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection, influences symptom phenotype, or impedes or alters the immune response to infection. Given the substantial global burden of obesity and given these uncertainties, we examined the epidemiology and immunology of obesity and SARS-CoV-2.

Methods: Industry employees were invited to participate in a prospective SARS-CoV-2 serology-based cohort study. Blood and baseline survey measures that included demographics, comorbidities, and prior COVID-19 compatible symptoms were collected. Serological testing and interim symptom reporting were conducted monthly. SARS-CoV-2 immunoassays included an IgG ELISA targeting the spike RBD, multiarray Luminex targeting 20 viral antigens, pseudovirus neutralization, and T cell ELISPOT assays. Unadjusted and adjusted analyses were used to identify differences in seroprevalence, clinical features, and immune parameters by BMI.

Results: Of 4469 individuals enrolled, 322 (7.21%) were seropositive. Adjusted seroprevalence was non-significantly lower with higher BMI. Obesity was associated with increased reporting of fever (OR 3.43 [95% CI 1.58-7.60]) and multiple other symptoms and aggregate measures. There were no identifiable differences in immune response between obese and non-obese individuals.

Discussion: We present benchmark data from a prospective serology-based cohort on the immunoepidemiology of BMI and SARS-CoV-2. Our findings suggest obesity is not linked to an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection; that symptom phenotype is strongly influenced by obesity; and that despite evidence of obesity-associated immune dysregulation in severe COVID-19, there is no evidence of a muted or suppressed immune response across multiple immune measures among non-severe infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.11.11.20229724DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7668749PMC
November 2020

Quick COVID-19 Healers Sustain Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Production.

Cell 2020 12 3;183(6):1496-1507.e16. Epub 2020 Nov 3.

Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Immunology, Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Electronic address:

Antibodies are key immune effectors that confer protection against pathogenic threats. The nature and longevity of the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 infection are not well defined. We charted longitudinal antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in 92 subjects after symptomatic COVID-19. Antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 are unimodally distributed over a broad range, with symptom severity correlating directly with virus-specific antibody magnitude. Seventy-six subjects followed longitudinally to ∼100 days demonstrated marked heterogeneity in antibody duration dynamics. Virus-specific IgG decayed substantially in most individuals, whereas a distinct subset had stable or increasing antibody levels in the same time frame despite similar initial antibody magnitudes. These individuals with increasing responses recovered rapidly from symptomatic COVID-19 disease, harbored increased somatic mutations in virus-specific memory B cell antibody genes, and had persistent higher frequencies of previously activated CD4 T cells. These findings illuminate an efficient immune phenotype that connects symptom clearance speed to differential antibody durability dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.051DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7608032PMC
December 2020

SARS-CoV-2 viral load is associated with increased disease severity and mortality.

Nat Commun 2020 10 30;11(1):5493. Epub 2020 Oct 30.

Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

The relationship between SARS-CoV-2 viral load and risk of disease progression remains largely undefined in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Here, we quantify SARS-CoV-2 viral load from participants with a diverse range of COVID-19 disease severity, including those requiring hospitalization, outpatients with mild disease, and individuals with resolved infection. We detected SARS-CoV-2 plasma RNA in 27% of hospitalized participants, and 13% of outpatients diagnosed with COVID-19. Amongst the participants hospitalized with COVID-19, we report that a higher prevalence of detectable SARS-CoV-2 plasma viral load is associated with worse respiratory disease severity, lower absolute lymphocyte counts, and increased markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein and IL-6. SARS-CoV-2 viral loads, especially plasma viremia, are associated with increased risk of mortality. Our data show that SARS-CoV-2 viral loads may aid in the risk stratification of patients with COVID-19, and therefore its role in disease pathogenesis should be further explored.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19057-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7603483PMC
October 2020

An observational study identifying highly tuberculosis-exposed, HIV-1-positive but persistently TB, tuberculin and IGRA negative persons with M. tuberculosis specific antibodies in Cape Town, South Africa.

EBioMedicine 2020 Nov 7;61:103053. Epub 2020 Oct 7.

DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research; South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research; Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa. Electronic address:

Background: Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection is inferred from positive results of T-cell immune conversion assays measuring Mtb-specific interferon gamma production or tuberculin skin test (TST) reactivity. Certain exposed individuals do not display T-cell immune conversion in these assays and do not develop TB. Here we report a hitherto unknown form of this phenotype: HIV-1-positive persistently TB, tuberculin and IGRA negative (HITTIN).

Methods: A community-based case-control design was used to systematically screen and identify adults living with HIV (HIV+), aged 35-60 years, who met stringent study criteria, and then longitudinally followed up for repeat IGRA and TST testing. Participants had no history of TB despite living in TB hyper-endemic environments in Cape Town, South Africa with a provincial incidence of 681/100,000. Mtb-specific antibodies were measured using ELISA and Luminex.

Findings: We identified 48/286 (17%) individuals who tested persistently negative for Mtb-specific T-cell immunoreactivity (three negative Quantiferon results and one TST = 0mm) over 206±154 days on average. Of these, 97·2% had documented CD4 counts<200 prior to antiretroviral therapy (ART). They had received ART for 7·0±3·0 years with a latest CD4 count of 505·8±191·4 cells/mm. All HITTIN sent for further antibody testing (n=38) displayed  Mtb-specific antibody titres.

Interpretation: Immune reconstituted HIV+ persons can be persistently non-immunoreactive to TST and interferon-γ T-cell responses to Mtb, yet develop species-specific antibody responses. Exposure is evidenced by Mtb-specific antibody titres. Our identification of HIV+ individuals displaying a persisting lack of response to TST and IGRA T-cell immune conversion paves the way for future studies to investigate this phenotype in the context of HIV-infection that so far have received only scant attention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.103053DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7648124PMC
November 2020

Persistence and decay of human antibody responses to the receptor binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in COVID-19 patients.

Sci Immunol 2020 10;5(52)

Division of Infectious Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

We measured plasma and/or serum antibody responses to the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 in 343 North American patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 (of which 93% required hospitalization) up to 122 days after symptom onset and compared them to responses in 1548 individuals whose blood samples were obtained prior to the pandemic. After setting seropositivity thresholds for perfect specificity (100%), we estimated sensitivities of 95% for IgG, 90% for IgA, and 81% for IgM for detecting infected individuals between 15 and 28 days after symptom onset. While the median time to seroconversion was nearly 12 days across all three isotypes tested, IgA and IgM antibodies against RBD were short-lived with median times to seroreversion of 71 and 49 days after symptom onset. In contrast, anti-RBD IgG responses decayed slowly through 90 days with only 3 seropositive individuals seroreverting within this time period. IgG antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 RBD were strongly correlated with anti-S neutralizing antibody titers, which demonstrated little to no decrease over 75 days since symptom onset. We observed no cross-reactivity of the SARS-CoV-2 RBD-targeted antibodies with other widely circulating coronaviruses (HKU1, 229 E, OC43, NL63). These data suggest that RBD-targeted antibodies are excellent markers of previous and recent infection, that differential isotype measurements can help distinguish between recent and older infections, and that IgG responses persist over the first few months after infection and are highly correlated with neutralizing antibodies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciimmunol.abe0367DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7857394PMC
October 2020

IgG3 collaborates with IgG1 and IgA to recruit effector function in RV144 vaccinees.

JCI Insight 2020 11 5;5(21). Epub 2020 Nov 5.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

While the RV144 HIV vaccine trial led to moderately reduced risk of HIV acquisition, emerging data from the HVTN702 trial point to the critical need to reexamine RV144-based correlates of reduced risk of protection. While in RV144, the induction of V2-binding, non-IgA, IgG3 antibody responses with nonneutralizing functions were linked to reduced risk of infection, the interactions between these signatures remain unclear. Thus, here we comprehensively profile the humoral immune response in 300 RV144 vaccinees to decipher the relationships between humoral biomarkers of protection. We found that vaccine-specific IgG1, IgG3, and IgA were highly correlated. However, ratios of IgG1:IgG3:IgA provided insights into subclass/isotype polyclonal functional regulation. For instance, in the absence of high IgG1 levels, IgG3 antibodies exhibited limited functional activity, pointing to IgG3 as a critical contributor, but not sole driver, of effective antiviral humoral immunity. Higher IgA levels were linked to enhanced antibody effector function, including neutrophil phagocytosis (ADNP), complement deposition (ADCD), and antibody-dependent NK degranulation (CD107a), some of which were increased in infected vaccinees in a case/control data set, suggesting that IgA-driven functions compromised immunity. These data highlight the interplay between IgG1, IgG3, and IgA, pointing to the need to profile the relationships between subclass/isotype selection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.140925DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7710302PMC
November 2020

Rapid 'mix and read' assay for scalable detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in patient plasma.

medRxiv 2020 Sep 3. Epub 2020 Sep 3.

The human beta coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, causative virus of COVID-19, has infected more than 15 million people globally and continues to spread. Widespread, population level testing to detect active and past infections is critical to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Antibody (serological) testing is the only option for detecting past infections outside the narrow window accessible to nucleic acid-based tests. However, currently available serological assays commonly lack scalability. Here, we describe the development of a rapid homogenous serological assay for the detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in patient plasma. We show that the fluorescence-based assay accurately detects seroconversion in COVID-19 patients from less than 1 microliter of plasma. Using a cohort of samples from COVID-19 infected or healthy individuals, we demonstrate detection with 100% sensitivity and specificity. This assay addresses an important need for a robust, low barrier to implementation, and scalable serological assay with complementary strengths to currently available serological platforms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.01.20184101DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7480056PMC
September 2020

Ad26 vaccine protects against SARS-CoV-2 severe clinical disease in hamsters.

Nat Med 2020 11 3;26(11):1694-1700. Epub 2020 Sep 3.

Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in humans is often a clinically mild illness, but some individuals develop severe pneumonia, respiratory failure and death. Studies of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection in hamsters and nonhuman primates have generally reported mild clinical disease, and preclinical SARS-CoV-2 vaccine studies have demonstrated reduction of viral replication in the upper and lower respiratory tracts in nonhuman primates. Here we show that high-dose intranasal SARS-CoV-2 infection in hamsters results in severe clinical disease, including high levels of virus replication in tissues, extensive pneumonia, weight loss and mortality in a subset of animals. A single immunization with an adenovirus serotype 26 vector-based vaccine expressing a stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike protein elicited binding and neutralizing antibody responses and protected against SARS-CoV-2-induced weight loss, pneumonia and mortality. These data demonstrate vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 clinical disease. This model should prove useful for preclinical studies of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, therapeutics and pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1070-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7671939PMC
November 2020

Evolution of Early SARS-CoV-2 and Cross-Coronavirus Immunity.

mSphere 2020 09 2;5(5). Epub 2020 Sep 2.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

The novel coronavirus, SARS-coronavirus (CoV)-2 (SARS-CoV-2), has caused over 17 million infections in just a few months, with disease manifestations ranging from largely asymptomatic infection to critically severe disease. The remarkable spread and unpredictable disease outcomes continue to challenge management of this infection. Among the hypotheses to explain the heterogeneity of symptoms is the possibility that exposure to other coronaviruses (CoVs), or overall higher capability to develop immunity against respiratory pathogens, may influence the evolution of immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Thus, we profiled the immune response across multiple coronavirus receptor binding domains (RBDs), respiratory viruses, and SARS-CoV-2, to determine whether heterologous immunity to other CoV-RBDs or other infections influenced the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 humoral immune response. Overall changes in subclass, isotype, and Fc-receptor binding were profiled broadly across a cohort of 43 individuals against different coronaviruses-RBDs of SARS-CoV-2 and the more common HKU1 and NL63 viruses. We found rapid functional evolution of responses to SARS-CoV-2 over time, along with broad but relatively more time-invariant responses to the more common CoVs. Moreover, there was little evidence of correlation between SARS-CoV-2 responses and HKU1, NL63, and respiratory infection (influenza and respiratory syncytial virus) responses. These findings suggest that common viral infections including common CoV immunity, targeting the receptor binding domain involved in viral infection, do not appear to influence the rapid functional evolution of SARS-CoV-2 immunity, and thus should not impact diagnostics or shape vaccine-induced immunity. A critical step to ending the spread of the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the ability to detect, diagnose, and understand why some individuals develop mild and others develop severe disease. For example, defining the early evolutionary patterns of humoral immunity to SARS-CoV-2, and whether prevalent coronaviruses or other common infections influence the evolution of immunity, remains poorly understood but could inform diagnostic and vaccine development. Here, we deeply profiled the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 immunity, and how it is influenced by other coinfections. Our data suggest an early and rapid rise in functional humoral immunity in the first 2 weeks of infection across antigen-specific targets, which is negligibly influenced by cross-reactivity to additional common coronaviruses or common respiratory infections. These data suggest that preexisting receptor binding domain-specific immunity does not influence or bias the evolution of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 and should have negligible influence on shaping diagnostic or vaccine-induced immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00622-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7471005PMC
September 2020

Pediatric Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2): Clinical Presentation, Infectivity, and Immune Responses.

J Pediatr 2020 12 20;227:45-52.e5. Epub 2020 Aug 20.

Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA; Department of Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA; Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Objectives: As schools plan for re-opening, understanding the potential role children play in the coronavirus infectious disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the factors that drive severe illness in children is critical.

Study Design: Children ages 0-22 years with suspected severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection presenting to urgent care clinics or being hospitalized for confirmed/suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) at Massachusetts General Hospital were offered enrollment in the Massachusetts General Hospital Pediatric COVID-19 Biorepository. Enrolled children provided nasopharyngeal, oropharyngeal, and/or blood specimens. SARS-CoV-2 viral load, ACE2 RNA levels, and serology for SARS-CoV-2 were quantified.

Results: A total of 192 children (mean age, 10.2 ± 7.0 years) were enrolled. Forty-nine children (26%) were diagnosed with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection; an additional 18 children (9%) met the criteria for MIS-C. Only 25 children (51%) with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection presented with fever; symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection, if present, were nonspecific. Nasopharyngeal viral load was highest in children in the first 2 days of symptoms, significantly higher than hospitalized adults with severe disease (P = .002). Age did not impact viral load, but younger children had lower angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 expression (P = .004). Immunoglobulin M (IgM) and Immunoglobulin G (IgG) to the receptor binding domain of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein were increased in severe MIS-C (P < .001), with dysregulated humoral responses observed.

Conclusions: This study reveals that children may be a potential source of contagion in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic despite having milder disease or a lack of symptoms; immune dysregulation is implicated in severe postinfectious MIS-C.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.08.037DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7438214PMC
December 2020

Targeting HIV Env immunogens to B cell follicles in nonhuman primates through immune complex or protein nanoparticle formulations.

NPJ Vaccines 2020 5;5:72. Epub 2020 Aug 5.

Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA.

Following immunization, high-affinity antibody responses develop within germinal centers (GCs), specialized sites within follicles of the lymph node (LN) where B cells proliferate and undergo somatic hypermutation. Antigen availability within GCs is important, as B cells must acquire and present antigen to follicular helper T cells to drive this process. However, recombinant protein immunogens such as soluble human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) envelope (Env) trimers do not efficiently accumulate in follicles following traditional immunization. Here, we demonstrate two strategies to concentrate HIV Env immunogens in follicles, via the formation of immune complexes (ICs) or by employing self-assembling protein nanoparticles for multivalent display of Env antigens. Using rhesus macaques, we show that within a few days following immunization, free trimers were present in a diffuse pattern in draining LNs, while trimer ICs and Env nanoparticles accumulated in B cell follicles. Whole LN imaging strikingly revealed that ICs and trimer nanoparticles concentrated in as many as 500 follicles in a single LN within two days after immunization. Imaging of LNs collected seven days postimmunization showed that Env nanoparticles persisted on follicular dendritic cells in the light zone of nascent GCs. These findings suggest that the form of antigen administered in vaccination can dramatically impact localization in lymphoid tissues and provides a new rationale for the enhanced immune responses observed following immunization with ICs or nanoparticles.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41541-020-00223-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7406516PMC
August 2020