Contributing to research themes:
There is currently no consensus on the diagnosis, definition, symptoms, or duration of COVID-19 illness. The diagnostic complexity of Long COVID is compounded in many patients who were or might have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 but not tested during the acute illness and/or are SARS-CoV-2 antibody negative.
Given the diagnostic conundrum of Long COVID, we set out to investigate SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses in patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and/or Long COVID from a cohort of mostly non-hospitalised patients.
We discovered that IL-2 release (but not IFN-γ release) from T cells in response to SARS-CoV-2 peptides is both sensitive (75% +/-13%) and specific (88%+/-7%) for previous SARS-CoV-2 infection >6 months after a positive PCR test. We identified that 42-53% of patients with Long COVID, but without detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, nonetheless have detectable SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell responses.
Our study reveals evidence (detectable T cell mediated IL-2 release) of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in seronegative patients with Long COVID.