Immunologie: “Expected immune recognition of COVID-19 virus by memory from earlier infections with common coronaviruses in a large part of the world population”

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SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus agent of the COVID-19 pandemic causing high mortalities. In contrast, the widely spread human coronaviruses OC43, HKU1, 229E, and NL63 tend to cause only mild symptoms. The present study shows, by in silico analysis, that these common human viruses are expected to induce immune memory against SARS-CoV-2 by sharing protein fragments (antigen epitopes) for presentation to the immune system by MHC class I. A list of such epitopes is provided. The number of these epitopes and the prevalence of the common coronaviruses suggest that a large part of the world population has some degree of specific immunity against SARS-CoV-2 already, even without having been infected by that virus. For inducing protection, booster vaccinations enhancing existing immunity are less demanding than primary vaccinations against new antigens. Therefore, for the discussion on vaccination strategies against COVID-19, the available immune memory against related viruses should be part of the consideration.

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