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Journal of Zhejiang University SCIENCE B 2022 Vol.23 No.6 P.451-460


Seasonal coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2: effects of preexisting immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic

Author(s):  Gang WANG, Ze XIANG, Wei WANG, Zhi CHEN

Affiliation(s):  State Key Laboratory for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, National Clinical Research Center for Infectious Diseases, National Medical Center for Infectious Diseases, Collaborative Innovation Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, The First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou 310003, China; more

Corresponding email(s):   zjuchenzhi@zju.edu.cn

Key Words:  Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Preexisting immunity, Seasonal coronaviruses, Vaccine

Gang WANG, Ze XIANG, Wei WANG, Zhi CHEN. Seasonal coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2: effects of preexisting immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic[J]. Journal of Zhejiang University Science B, 2022, 23(6): 451-460.

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Although the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic is still ongoing, vaccination rates are rising slowly and related treatments and drugs are being developed. At the same time, there is increasing evidence of preexisting immunity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in humans, mainly consisting of preexisting antibodies and immune cells (including T cells and B cells). The presence of these antibodies is mainly due to the seasonal prevalence of four common coronavirus types, especially OC43 and HKU1. The accumulated relevant evidence has suggested that the target of antibodies is mainly the S2 subunit of S protein, followed by evolutionary conservative regions such as the nucleocapsid (N) protein. Additionally, preexisting memory T and B cells are also present in the population. Preexisting antibodies can help the body protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection, reduce the severity of COVID-19, and rapidly increase the immune response post-infection. These multiple effects can directly affect disease progression and even the likelihood of death in certain individuals. Besides the positive effects, preexisting immunity may also have negative consequences, such as antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) and original antigenic sin (OAS), the prevalence of which needs to be further established. In the future, more research should be focused on evaluating the role of preexisting immunity in COVID-19 outcomes, adopting appropriate policies and strategies for fighting the pandemic, and vaccine development that considers preexisting immunity.




Darkslateblue:Affiliate; Royal Blue:Author; Turquoise:Article


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