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Study evaluates if adults with obesity and a history of SARS-CoV-2 infection demonstrate poorer T cell immunity

In a recent study published in Obesity, researchers assessed the association between obesity and T cell frequencies specific to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antigen.

Study: Individuals with obesity who survive SARS-CoV-2 infection have preserved antigen specific T cell frequencies. Image Credit: DisobeyArt/Shutterstock


Various studies have reported that obesity is a risk factor for developing severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), leading to increased COVID-19-related hospitalizations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and mortality. This increased adverse impact on people with obesity (PWO) could also be due to immune dysregulation due to obesity. Recent studies have reported that COVID-19-infected PWO displayed lower immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody titers. However, generating robust T-cell immunity against SARS-CoV-2 among PWO needs further research.  

About the study

In the present study, researchers evaluated if individuals suffering from obesity with a history of COVID-19 infection displayed lower SARS-CoV-2 antigen-specific T-cell immunity compared to control individuals.

The team conducted a cross-sectional analysis of a cohort study that assessed the CD4+ and CD8+ cell responses specific to SARS-CoV-2 in individuals three to nine months after polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The study included a total of 40 individuals, including 20 adults suffering from obesity with a body-mass index (BMI) of more than 30 kg/m2 and 20 matched controls with BMI of less than 30 kg/m2. The team obtained patient samples between September and December 2020.

The eligible participants were 18 years and above, provided informed consent, and were diagnosed with COVID-19 three to nine months before the study. The participants were also a part of cohort studies called the all-Ireland infectious disease and obesity immunology group. Furthermore, the team performed flow cytometric analysis and measured the Igg antibody titers against SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain (RBD), spike 1 subunit (S1), S2 subunit, and nucleocapsid (N) protein.       


The study results found substantial frequencies of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses specific to SARS-CoV-2 that produced interferon-γ (IFNγ) against SARS-CoV-2 S and membrane peptides. Cytokine-producing T-cells were correlated with increased protection against SARS-CoV-2 infections. The team observed CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses to both membrane and S peptides.

PWO also exhibited strong T cell responses specific to SARS-CoV-2, with no variations between the frequencies of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells that produced IFNγ against the membrane and S peptide pools. Similarly, frequencies corresponding to cytokine-producing T cells specific to SARS-CoV-2 were comparable among people who were and were not diagnosed with obesity. Furthermore, the humoral immunity was similar among the PWO and control individuals.


Overall, the study findings showed that the estimation of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses specific to SARS-CoV-2 antigens among people with obesity who have a history of COVID-19 highlighted that antigen-specific T cell frequencies were not affected by obesity.  

Journal reference:
  • Wrigley Kelly, N.E., Kenny, G., Cassidy, F.C., Garcia-Leon, A.A., De Barra, C., Mallon, P.W.G., Hogan, A.E. and O'Shea, D. (2022). Individuals with obesity who survive SARS-CoV-2 infection have preserved antigen specific T cell frequencies. Obesity. doi:

Posted in: Medical Science News | Medical Research News | Disease/Infection News

Tags: Antibody, Antigen, CD4, Cell, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Disease COVID-19, covid-19, Cytokine, Cytometric Analysis, immunity, Immunoglobulin, Immunology, Intensive Care, Interferon, Membrane, Mortality, Obesity, Peptides, Polymerase, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Protein, Receptor, Research, Respiratory, SARS, SARS-CoV-2, Severe Acute Respiratory, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Syndrome, T-Cell

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Written by

Bhavana Kunkalikar

Bhavana Kunkalikar is a medical writer based in Goa, India. Her academic background is in Pharmaceutical sciences and she holds a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy. Her educational background allowed her to foster an interest in anatomical and physiological sciences. Her college project work based on ‘The manifestations and causes of sickle cell anemia’ formed the stepping stone to a life-long fascination with human pathophysiology.

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