Magnitude of venous or capillary blood-derived SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell response determines COVID-19 immunity


Nature Communications

Contributing to research themes:

T cells specific for SARS-CoV-2 are thought to protect against infection and development of COVID-19, but direct evidence for this is lacking. Here, we associated whole-blood-based measurement of SARS-CoV-2-specific interferon-γ-positive T cell responses with positive COVID-19 diagnostic (PCR and/or lateral flow) test results up to 6 months post-blood sampling. Amongst 148 participants donating venous blood samples, SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell response magnitude is significantly greater in those who remain protected versus those who become infected (P < 0.0001); relatively low magnitude T cell response results in a 43.2% risk of infection, whereas high magnitude reduces this risk to 5.4%. These findings are recapitulated in a further 299 participants testing a scalable capillary blood-based assay that could facilitate the acquisition of population-scale T cell immunity data (14.9% and 4.4%, respectively). Hence, measurement of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells can prognosticate infection risk and should be assessed when monitoring individual and population immunity status.

Author list:


  1. Division of Infection & Immunity, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. 
  2. Systems Immunity Research Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. 
  3. ImmunoServ Ltd., Cardiff, UK. 
  4. Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Cardiff & Vale University Health Board, Cardiff, UK.


Martin J. Scurr1,2,3, George Lippiatt3, Lorenzo Capitani1,2, Kirsten Bentley1,2, Sarah N. Lauder1,2, Kathryn Smart1,2, Michelle S. Somerville1,2, Tara Rees1,3,4, Richard J. Stanton1,2, Awen Gallimore1,2, James P. Hindley3 &
Andrew Godkin1