IL-18-dependent MAIT cell activation in COVID-19


Flament et al. report a marked reduction of circulating mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells in patients with severe COVID-19, compared with controls sharing co-morbidities. These MAIT cells had very high levels of activation that correlated with disease severity. Among T cells, alterations in MAIT cells preferentially associated with mortality, and high CD69 expression correlated with poor outcome. Severe inflammation, particularly high levels of IL-18, was associated with increased cytotoxicity of circulating MAIT cells. Co-culture studies of in vitro SARS-CoV-2-infected macrophages with MAIT cells suggest a two-step process of MAIT cell activation, through type I IFN and later IL-18. Together with other reports, this preprint supports a pivotal role for MAIT cells, through an IL-18-dependent mechanism, in the pathology of COVID-19.


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  1. Flament, H. et al. Outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection linked to MAIT cell activation and cytotoxicity: evidence for an IL-18 dependent mechanism. Preprint at medRxiv (2020)

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Correspondence to Ester Gea-Mallorquí.

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Gea-Mallorquí, E. IL-18-dependent MAIT cell activation in COVID-19. Nat Rev Immunol 20, 719 (2020).

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