Publications & Posters

Protective heterologous T cell immunity in COVID-19 induced by the trivalent Measles-Mumps-Rubella and Tetanus-Diptheria-Pertussis vaccine antigens

Med | August 14, 2021

Mysore V, Cullere X, Settles ML, Ji X, Kattan MW, Desjardins M, Durbin-Johnson B, Gilboa T, Baden LR, Walt DR, Lichtman AH, Jehi L and Mayadas TN

Med. 2021

DOI: 10.1016/j.medj.2021.08.004

This study was performed using a Simoa Homebrew assay.



T cells control viral infection and promote vaccine durability and in COVID-19 associate with mild disease. We investigated whether prior Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) or Tetanus-Diptheria-Pertussis (Tdap) vaccination elicit cross-reactive T cells that mitigate COVID-19.


Antigen presenting cells (APC) loaded ex vivo with SARS-CoV-2, MMR or Tdap antigens and autologous T cells from COVID-19 convalescent and uninfected individuals, and COVID-19 mRNA vaccinated donors were co-cultured and T cell activation and phenotype were detected by IFN-γ ELISpot assays and flow cytometry. ELISA assays and validation studies identified the APC-derived cytokine(s) driving T cell activation. TCR clonotyping and scRNA-seq identified cross-reactive T cells and their transcriptional profile. A propensity-weighted analysis of COVID-19 patients estimated the effects of MMR and Tdap vaccination on COVID-19 outcomes.


High correlation was observed between T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 (Spike-S1 and Nucleocapsid) and MMR and Tdap proteins in COVID-19 convalescent and vaccinated individuals. The overlapping T cell population contained an effector memory T cell subset (TEMRA) implicated in protective, anti-viral immunity and their detection required APC-derived IL-15, known to sensitize T cells to activation. Cross-reactive TCR repertoires detected in antigen-experienced T cells recognizing SARS-CoV-2, MMR and Tdap epitopes had TEMRA features. Indices of disease severity were reduced in MMR or Tdap vaccinated individuals by 32-38% and 20-23% respectively, among COVID-19 patients.


Tdap and MMR memory T cells reactivated by SARS-CoV-2 may provide protection against severe COVID-19 disease.