Rapid, scalable assessment of SARS-CoV-2 cellular immunity by whole-blood PCR

Megan Schwarz, Denis Torre, Daniel Lozano-Ojalvo, Anthony T. Tan, Tommaso Tabaglio, Slim Mzoughi, Rodrigo Sanchez-Tarjuelo, Nina Le Bert, Joey Ming Er Lim, Sandra Hatem, Kevin Tuballes, Carmen Camara, Eduardo Lopez-Granados, Estela Paz-Artal, Rafael Correa-Rocha, Alberto Ortiz, Marcos Lopez-Hoyos, Jose Portoles, Isabel Cervera, Maria Gonzalez-PerezIrene Bodega-Mayor, Patricia Conde, Jesús Oteo-Iglesias, Alberto M. Borobia, Antonio J. Carcas, Jesús Frías, Cristóbal Belda-Iniesta, Jessica S.Y. Ho, Kemuel Nunez, Saboor Hekmaty, Kevin Mohammed, William M. Marsiglia, Juan Manuel Carreño, Arvin C. Dar, Cecilia Berin, Giuseppe Nicoletti, Isabella Della Noce, Lorenzo Colombo, Cristina Lapucci, Graziano Santoro, Maurizio Ferrari, Kai Nie, Manishkumar Patel, Vanessa Barcessat, Sacha Gnjatic, Jocelyn Harris, Robert Sebra, Miriam Merad, Florian Krammer, Seunghee Kim-schulze, Ivan Marazzi, Antonio Bertoletti, Jordi Ochando, Ernesto Guccione

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Fast, high-throughput methods for measuring the level and duration of protective immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 are needed to anticipate the risk of breakthrough infections. Here we report the development of two quantitative PCR assays for SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell activation. The assays are rapid, internally normalized and probe-based: qTACT requires RNA extraction and dqTACT avoids sample preparation steps. Both assays rely on the quantification of CXCL10 messenger RNA, a chemokine whose expression is strongly correlated with activation of antigen-specific T cells. On restimulation of whole-blood cells with SARS-CoV-2 viral antigens, viral-specific T cells secrete IFN-γ, which stimulates monocytes to produce CXCL10. CXCL10 mRNA can thus serve as a proxy to quantify cellular immunity. Our assays may allow large-scale monitoring of the magnitude and duration of functional T cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2, thus helping to prioritize revaccination strategies in vulnerable populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1680-1689
Number of pages10
JournalNature Biotechnology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


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