Research ArticleCORONAVIRUS

Impaired humoral immunity to SARS-CoV-2 BNT162b2 vaccine in kidney transplant recipients and dialysis patients

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Science Immunology  15 Jun 2021:
Vol. 6, Issue 60, eabj1031
DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abj1031

Abstract

Patients with kidney failure are at increased risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection making effective vaccinations a critical need. It is not known how well mRNA vaccines induce B and plasma cell responses in dialysis patients (DP) or kidney transplant recipients (KTR) compared to healthy controls (HC). We studied humoral and B cell responses of 35 HC, 44 DP and 40 KTR. Markedly impaired anti-BNT162b2 responses were identified among KTR and DP compared to HC. In DP, the response was delayed (3-4 weeks after boost) and reduced with anti-S1 IgG and IgA positivity in 70.5% and 68.2%, respectively. In contrast, KTR did not develop IgG responses except one patient who had a prior unrecognized infection and developed anti-S1 IgG. The majority of antigen-specific B cells (RBD+) were identified in the plasmablast or post-switch memory B cell compartments in HC, whereas RBD+ B cells were enriched among pre-switch and naïve B cells from DP and KTR. The frequency and absolute number of antigen-specific circulating plasmablasts in the cohort correlated with the Ig response, a characteristic not reported for other vaccinations. In conclusion, these data indicated that immunosuppression resulted in impaired protective immunity after mRNA vaccination, including Ig induction with corresponding generation of plasmablasts and memory B cells. Thus, there is an urgent need to improve vaccination protocols in patients after kidney transplantation or on chronic dialysis.

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