Expansion of plasmablasts and loss of memory B cells in peripheral blood from COVID-19 patients with pneumonia.Eur J Immunol. 2020 09; 50(9):1283-1294.EJ
Studies on the interactions between SARS-CoV-2 and humoral immunity are fundamental to elaborate effective therapies including vaccines. We used polychromatic flow cytometry, coupled with unsupervised data analysis and principal component analysis (PCA), to interrogate B cells in untreated patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. COVID-19 patients displayed normal plasma levels of the main immunoglobulin classes, of antibodies against common antigens or against antigens present in common vaccines. However, we found a decreased number of total and naïve B cells, along with decreased percentages and numbers of memory switched and unswitched B cells. On the contrary, IgM+ and IgM- plasmablasts were significantly increased. In vitro cell activation revealed that B lymphocytes showed a normal proliferation index and number of dividing cells per cycle. PCA indicated that B-cell number, naive and memory B cells but not plasmablasts clustered with patients who were discharged, while plasma IgM level, C-reactive protein, D-dimer, and SOFA score with those who died. In patients with pneumonia, the derangement of the B-cell compartment could be one of the causes of the immunological failure to control SARS-Cov2, have a relevant influence on several pathways, organs and systems, and must be considered to develop vaccine strategies.