Immune Response to COVID-19

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient.

Credit: NIAID

Comprehensive analyses of innate and adaptive immune responses during acute COVID-19 infection and convalescence

The COVID-19 pandemic poses an unprecedented public health crisis. At present, our narrow understanding of the immune system’s response to the infection limits our capacity to prevent and treat severe disease. As part of the efforts outlined in the NIAID Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research, NIAID researchers are spearheading a large, international collaboration to unveil the innate and adaptive immune responses during acute COVID-19 infection and convalescence. Each researcher will contribute their unique expertise to collectively elucidate the innate and adaptive immune response to COVID-19 infection. This synergistic coalition of researchers will work closely and share data to maximize the impact of patient samples. The overall goal is to identify immunological and virological correlates and predictors of clinical outcomes.

The research projects will examine the following:

  • Genetic markers of susceptibility to severe COVID-19 infection
  • Composition of T- and B-cell repertoire and mapping of virus-specific T-cell receptor (TCR) sequences
  • Cytokine and chemokine profiling, including interferon (IFN) signature and soluble markers of inflammation
  • Antibody responses to COVID-19 infection
  • Anti-cytokine autoantibodies
  • Levels of plasma gelsolin
  • Humoral immunological signature of the human virome
  • Anti-commensal antibody repertoire
  • Systems biology approach to understand changes in the immune system
  • Intrapatient SARS-CoV-2 genetic variation
  • Role of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs)

How To Contribute

This website is designed to inform physicians of the research occurring at NIAID. If interested in contributing to any or all of these research projects, please reach out to the contact person on the respective project page.

Host Genetics

Researchers in the Human Immunological Diseases Section believe COVID-19 causes mild or no illness in some individuals and not others because of our genetic makeup. The lab will sequence and analyze the genomes of previously healthy patients who experienced severe or fatal COVID-19 infection.


Read more about host genetics research in severe COVID-19 infection

T-Cell and B-Cell Repertoires

The Immune Deficiency Genetics Section aims to analyze the dynamic changes that occur within an individual’s T-cell and B-cell repertoires during the transition from acute COVID-19 infection into convalescence.


Read more about T-cell and B-cell repertoires during COVID-19 recovery

Cytokine Profile

The Translational Autoinflammatory Disease Studies Unit will harness the power of Nanostring and RNA-Seq to measure and characterize the pro-inflammatory cytokine signature of COVID-19. 


Read more about cytokine profiling of COVID-19

Antibody Response

The Medical Virology Section is interested in performing serologic studies to better understand the epidemiology of COVID-19 in specific cohorts.


Read more about SARS-CoV-2 antibody response

Analysis of Autoantibodies

Researchers in the Immunopathogenesis Section believe that anti-cytokine antibodies that can neutralize antiviral cytokines may contribute to COVID-19 disease progression, as they do in other immune-mediated diseases.


Read more about Analysis of Autoantibodies

Gelsolin Levels

The Clinical Pathophysiology Section plans to evaluate gelsolin levels in COVID-19-infected patients using an ELISA assay.


Read more about the measurement of gelsolin levels in COVID-19 infection

Immunological History

In collaboration with NIAID researchers, the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will use the VirScan technology to examine the humoral immunological signature of the human virome in COVID-19 patients.


Read more about immunological history in COVID-19

Microbiome Immunity

The NIAID Microbiome Program and the Metaorganism Immunity Section propose that immune responses to the gut microbiota may predict which patients get very sick with COVID-19 while others remain asymptomatic. 


Read more about the microbiome immunity related to COVID-19 infection

Systems Immunology

The Multiscale Systems Biology Section will integrate computational approaches and several cutting-edge high-throughput methods to assess changes in the epigenome, transcriptome, and proteome throughout the course of COVID-19 disease.


Read more about systems immunology of COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Genetics

The Virus Persistence and Dynamics Section will explore the intrapatient diversity of SARS-CoV-2 sequences using high-throughput, long-read, single-molecule sequencing.


Read more about SARS-CoV-2 Genetics

Neutrophil Dysregulation in COVID-19

The Systemic Autoimmunity Branch at NIAMS will study in detail the role of neutrophil dysregulation and NETs in the induction of enhanced proinflammatory responses, tissue damage, vasculopathy, and prothrombotic manifestations.


Read more about Neutrophil Dysregulation in COVID-19

Participating Hospitals

We seek hospitals to collaborate in our research project by submitting samples. For sample requirements, see the specific project pages.


See the list of participating hospitals
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