Subacute SARS-CoV-2 replication can be controlled in the absence of CD8+ T cells in cynomolgus macaques.PLoS Pathog. 2021 07; 17(7):e1009668.PP
SARS-CoV-2 infection presents clinical manifestations ranging from asymptomatic to fatal respiratory failure. Despite the induction of functional SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in convalescent individuals, the role of virus-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in the control of SARS-CoV-2 replication remains unknown. In the present study, we show that subacute SARS-CoV-2 replication can be controlled in the absence of CD8+ T cells in cynomolgus macaques. Eight macaques were intranasally inoculated with 105 or 106 TCID50 of SARS-CoV-2, and three of the eight macaques were treated with a monoclonal anti-CD8 antibody on days 5 and 7 post-infection. In these three macaques, CD8+ T cells were undetectable on day 7 and thereafter, while virus-specific CD8+ T-cell responses were induced in the remaining five untreated animals. Viral RNA was detected in nasopharyngeal swabs for 10-17 days post-infection in all macaques, and the kinetics of viral RNA levels in pharyngeal swabs and plasma neutralizing antibody titers were comparable between the anti-CD8 antibody treated and untreated animals. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in the pharyngeal mucosa and/or retropharyngeal lymph node obtained at necropsy on day 21 in two of the untreated group but undetectable in all macaques treated with anti-CD8 antibody. CD8+ T-cell responses may contribute to viral control in SARS-CoV-2 infection, but our results indicate possible containment of subacute viral replication in the absence of CD8+ T cells, implying that CD8+ T-cell dysfunction may not solely lead to viral control failure.