Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Induces Robust T-Cell Response to Variants: Gunshots

A woman received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 at an auto-vaccination event in Meerbusch last Saturday. Lukas Schulze / Getty Images hide the caption

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Lukas Schulze / Getty Images

A woman received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 at an auto-vaccination event in Meerbusch last Saturday.

Lukas Schulze / Getty Images

The emergence of new and more contagious variants of the coronavirus has raised a troubling question: will the current crop of the COVID-19 vaccine prevent these variants from causing disease?

A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature suggests that the answer is yes.

The research was relatively easy. The scientists took blood from volunteers who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and examined levels of neutralizing antibodies, the type of antibodies that prevent a virus from entering cells.

“We have shown that the neutralizing antibodies are about five-fold reduced to the B.1.351 variant,” says Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. According to the new nomenclature proposed by the World Health Organization, B.1.351 is now called Beta. It first appeared in South Africa.

“This is very similar to what other investigators have shown with other vaccines,” he says. “But we have also shown that there are many other types of immune responses besides neutralizing antibodies, including binding antibodies, FC-functional antibodies and T-cell reactions.”

And it is this final immune response, the T-cell response, that is vital, according to Barouch. Because T cells, especially CD-8 T cells, play a crucial role in the prevention of diseases.

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“These are the killer T cells,” says Barouch. “These are the types of T cells that basically find and destroy infected cells and directly help clear infection.”

They don’t prevent infection; They help prevent infection from spreading.

“The T cell responses are actually not – at all – reduced to the variants,” says Barouch. Not just the beta version, but also the alpha and gamma versions.

This could help explain why the Johnson & Johnson vaccine prevented serious illness when tested on volunteers in South Africa, where worrisome variants are circulating.

“The data are very solid,” says Alessandro Sette, an immunologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. “Dan Barouch’s data show very nicely that there is no significant decrease in the [CD8 T-cell] Responsiveness. “

Sette’s lab has seen similar results with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Marcela Maus from Massachusetts General Hospital is one of them. Although it will take human studies to be sure that the vaccines against variants will work. “Anything that elicits a T-cell immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is, in my opinion, potentially protective,” says Maus.

What is not yet clear is how long the T cell response will last, but several labs are working to answer this question.

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