Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Long-term Existence of SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 Patients: Host Immunity, Viral Virulence, and Transmissibility

Version 1 : Received: 29 July 2020 / Approved: 30 July 2020 / Online: 30 July 2020 (12:16:21 CEST)

How to cite: Jin, M.; Wang, X.; Jiang, H.; Hua, L.; Yu, W.; ding, D.; wang, K.; Li, X.; Huang, K.; zou, Z.; Xu, S. Long-term Existence of SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 Patients: Host Immunity, Viral Virulence, and Transmissibility. Preprints 2020, 2020070719 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202007.0719.v1). Jin, M.; Wang, X.; Jiang, H.; Hua, L.; Yu, W.; ding, D.; wang, K.; Li, X.; Huang, K.; zou, Z.; Xu, S. Long-term Existence of SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 Patients: Host Immunity, Viral Virulence, and Transmissibility. Preprints 2020, 2020070719 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202007.0719.v1).

Abstract

COVID-19 patients can recover with a median SARS-CoV-2 clearance of 20 days post initial symptoms (PIS). However, we observed some COVID-19 patients with existing SARS-CoV-2 for more than 50 days PIS. This study aimed to investigate the cause of viral clearance delay and the infectivity in these patients. Demographic data and clinical characteristics of 22 long-term COVID-19 patients were collected. SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid, peripheral lymphocyte count, and functionality were assessed. SARS-CoV-2-specific and neutralization antibodies were detected, followed by virus isolation and genome sequencing. The median age of the studied cohort was 59.83±12.94 years. All patients were clinically cured after long-term SARS-CoV-2 infection ranging from 53 to 112 days PIS. Peripheral lymphocytes counts were normal. Interferon gamma (IFN-ƴ)-generated CD4+ and CD8+ cells were normal as 24.68±9.60% and 66.41±14.87%. However, the number of IFN-ƴ-generated NK cells diminished (58.03±11.78%). All patients presented detectable IgG, which positively correlated with mild neutralizing activity (ID50=157.2, P=0.05). SARS-CoV-2 was not isolated, and a cytopathic effect was lacking. Only three synonymous variants were identified in spike protein coding regions. In conclusion, decreased IFN-γ production by NK cells and low neutralizing antibodies might favor SARS-CoV-2 long-term existence. Further, low viral load and weak viral pathogenicity was observed in COVID-19 patients with long-term SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Subject Areas

SARS-CoV-2; long-term; neutralization antibody; lymphocyte functionality; viral pathogenicity.

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