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posted on 09.11.2021, 04:16 authored by Felipe Melo-González, Jorge A. Soto, Liliana A. González, Jorge Fernández, Luisa F. Duarte, Bárbara M. Schultz, Nicolás M. S. Gálvez, Gaspar A. Pacheco, Mariana Ríos, Yaneisi Vázquez, Daniela Rivera-Pérez, Daniela Moreno-Tapia, Carolina Iturriaga, Omar P. Vallejos, Roslye V. Berríos-Rojas, Guillermo Hoppe-Elsholz, Marcela Urzúa, Nicole Bruneau, Rodrigo A. Fasce, Judith Mora, Alba Grifoni, Alessandro Sette, Daniela Weiskopf, Gang Zeng, Weining Meng, José V. González-Aramundiz, Pablo A. González, Katia Abarca, Eugenio Ramírez, Alexis M. Kalergis, Susan M. Bueno
Background

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus responsible of the current pandemic ongoing all around the world. Since its discovery in 2019, several circulating variants have emerged and some of them are associated with increased infections and death rate. Despite the genetic differences among these variants, vaccines approved for human use have shown a good immunogenic and protective response against them. In Chile, over 70% of the vaccinated population is immunized with CoronaVac, an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. The immune response elicited by this vaccine has been described against the first SARS-CoV-2 strain isolated from Wuhan, China and the D614G strain (lineage B). To date, four SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern described have circulated worldwide. Here, we describe the neutralizing capacities of antibodies secreted by volunteers in the Chilean population immunized with CoronaVac against variants of concern Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351) Gamma (P.1) and Delta (B.617.2).

Methods

Volunteers enrolled in a phase 3 clinical trial were vaccinated with two doses of CoronaVac in 0-14 or 0-28 immunization schedules. Sera samples were used to evaluate the capacity of antibodies induced by the vaccine to block the binding between Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) from variants of concern and the human ACE2 receptor by an in-house ELISA. Further, conventional microneutralization assays were used to test neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Moreover, interferon-γ-secreting T cells against Spike from variants of concern were evaluated in PBMCs from vaccinated subjects using ELISPOT.

Results

CoronaVac promotes the secretion of antibodies able to block the RBD of all the SARS-CoV-2 variants studied. Seropositivity rates of neutralizing antibodies in the population evaluated were over 97% for the lineage B strain, over 80% for Alpha and Gamma variants, over 75% for Delta variant and over 60% for the Beta variant. Geometric means titers of blocking antibodies were reduced when tested against SARS-CoV-2 variants as compared to ancestral strain. We also observed that antibodies from vaccinated subjects were able to neutralize the infection of variants D614G, Alpha, Gamma and Delta in a conventional microneutralization assay. Importantly, after SARS-CoV-2 infection, we observed that the blocking capacity of antibodies from vaccinated volunteers increased up to ten times for all the variants tested. We compared the number of interferon-γ-secreting T cells specific for SARS-CoV-2 Spike WT and variants of concern from vaccinated subjects and we did not detect significant differences.

Conclusion

Immunization with CoronaVac in either immunization schedule promotes the secretion of antibodies able to block SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and partially neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, it stimulates cellular responses against all variants of concern.

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