Discordant humoral and T cell immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in people with multiple sclerosis on anti-CD20 therapy

Sachin P. Gadani, Maria Reyes-Mantilla, Larissa Jank, Samantha Harris, Morgan Douglas, Matthew D. Smith, Peter A. Calabresi, Ellen M. Mowry, Kathryn C. Fitzgerald, Pavan Bhargava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor (S1P) modulators and anti-CD20 therapies impair humoral responses to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines. Relatively few studies have assessed the impact of an array of disease modifying therapies (DMTs) for multiple sclerosis (MS) on T cell immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. Methods: In 101 people with MS, we measured humoral responses via an immunoassay to measure IgG against the COVID-19 spike S1 glycoprotein in serum. We also measured T cell responses using FluoroSpot assay for interferon gamma (IFN-γ) (Mabtech, Sweden) using cryopreserved rested PBMCs and then incubated in cRPMI with 1µg/ml of pooled peptides spanning the entire spike glycoprotein (Genscript, 2 pools; 158 peptides each). Plates were read on an AID iSpot Spectrum to determine the number of spot forming cells (SFC)/106 PBMCs. We tested for differences in immune responses across DMTs using linear models. Findings: Humoral responses were detected in 22/39 (56.4%) participants on anti-CD20 and in 59/63 (93.6%) participants on no or other DMTs. In a subset (n=88; 87%), T cell responses were detected in 76/88 (86%), including 32/33 (96.9%) participants on anti-CD20 therapies. Anti-CD20 therapies were associated with an increase in IFN-γ SFC counts relative to those on no DMT or other DMTs (for anti-CD20 vs. no DMT: 425.9% higher [95%CI: 109.6%, 1206.6%] higher; p<0.001; for anti-CD20 vs. other DMTs: 289.6% [95%CI: 85.9%, 716.6%] higher; p<0.001). Interpretation: We identified a robust T cell response in individuals on anti-CD20 therapies despite a reduced humoral response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. Follow up studies are needed to determine if this translates to protection against COVID-19 infection. Funding: This study was funded partially by 1K01MH121582-01 from NIH/NIMH and TA-1805-31136 from the National MS Society (NMSS) to KCF and TA-1503-03465 and JF-2007-37655 from the NMSS to PB. This study was also supported through the generosity of the collective community of donors to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for COVID research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103636
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • T cells
  • humoral immunity, multiple sclerosis, anti-CD20 therapies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Discordant humoral and T cell immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in people with multiple sclerosis on anti-CD20 therapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this