What is immunological memory
Immunity to SARS-CoV-2: The Complexity of Immunological Memory
SARS-CoV-2 and protective immunological memory
The formation of a protective antibody memory presupposes a high level of contamination of the population, the repeated infection of individual individuals or the persistence of the infectious agent in the individual individual until primary and secondary immune reactions take place in direct succession. In a two-phase immune reaction, memory B lymphocytes are created first and then memory plasma cells from reactivated memory B lymphocytes. Neither obviously applies to SARS-CoV-2. Secondary infections are rare because the prevalence of the population is low; In most infected people, the virus disappears after a few days and the induced antibodies are no longer measurable in many within months after infection. In the event of a renewed infection, however, the reactive immunological memory would significantly reduce the course of the disease. SARS-CoV-2 behaves like many other viruses, at least in the infected, in which there is no severe clinical course. In order to achieve a stable protective immunological memory through neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, it would be possible to let the pandemic run its course and thus induce protective antibodies through secondary immune reactions. In view of the COVID-19-associated morbidity and mortality as well as the fact that neither dose, route nor target persons of the infection can be controlled, this approach should be viewed rather critically. Vaccines, on the other hand, can be given repeatedly without drastic side effects in order to specifically induce primary and secondary immune reactions and thus a stable protective immunological memory and thereby avoid the formation of disease-aggravating antibodies. What is more, vaccines can be dosed in such a way that the antibodies can effectively neutralize even high doses of the infectious agent. It is justified to hope that a vaccine will also make a decisive contribution to ending the pandemic with SARS-CoV-2.
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