Coordinated local mucosal and systemic immune responses following severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection either protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pathologies or fail, leading to severe clinical outcomes. To understand this process, we performed an integrated analysis of SARS-CoV-2 spike-specific antibodies, cytokines, viral load and bacterial communities in paired nasopharyngeal swabs and plasma samples from a cohort of clinically distinct patients with COVID-19 during acute infection. Plasma viral load was associated with systemic inflammatory cytokines that were elevated in severe COVID-19, and also with spike-specific neutralizing antibodies. By contrast, nasopharyngeal viral load correlated with SARS-CoV-2 humoral responses but inversely with interferon responses, the latter associating with protective microbial communities.
Potential pathogenic microorganisms, often implicated in secondary respiratory infections, were associated with mucosal inflammation and elevated in severe COVID-19. Our results demonstrate distinct tissue compartmentalization of SARS-CoV-2 immune responses and highlight a role for the nasopharyngeal microbiome in regulating local and systemic immunity that determines COVID-19 clinical outcomes.
Smith, N., Goncalves, P., Charbit, B. et al. Distinct systemic and mucosal immune responses during acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Immunol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41590-021-01028-7