Cellular and Humoral Immunity after the Third Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 in Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplant Recipients

Protecting vulnerable groups from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection is mandatory. Immune responses after a third vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 are insufficiently studied in patients after hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT). We analyzed immune responses before and after a third vaccination in HSCT patients and healthy controls. Cellular immunity was assessed using interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) ELISpots. Furthermore, this is the first report on neutralizing antibodies against 11 variants of SARS-CoV-2, analyzed by competitive fluorescence assay. Humoral immunity was also measured by neutralization tests assessing cytopathic effects and by ELISA. Neither HSCT patients nor healthy controls displayed significantly higher SARS-CoV-2-specific IFN-γ or IL-2 responses after the third vaccination. However, after the third vaccination, cellular responses were 2.6-fold higher for IFN-γ and 3.2-fold higher for IL-2 in healthy subjects compared with HSCT patients. After the third vaccination, neutralizing antibodies were significantly higher (p < 0.01) in healthy controls, but not in HSCT patients. Healthy controls vs. HSCT patients had 1.5-fold higher concentrations of neutralizing antibodies against variants and 1.2-fold higher antibody concentrations against wildtype. However, half of the HSCT patients exhibited neutralizing antibodies to variants of SARS-CoV-2, which increased only slightly after a third vaccination.


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