Acute rotavirus infection is associated with the induction of circulating memory CD4 T cell subsets.
Strong CD4 T cell-mediated immune protection following rotavirus infection has been observed in animal models, but its relevance in humans remains unclear. Here, we characterized acute and convalescent CD4 T cell responses in children who were hospitalized with rotavirus-positive and rotavirus-negative diarrhoea in Blantyre, Malawi. Children presenting with laboratory-confirmed rotavirus infection had higher proportions of effector and central memory T helper 2 cells during acute infection i.e., at disease presentation compared to convalescence, 28 days post-infection defined by a follow-up 28 days after acute infection. However, circulating cytokine-producing (IFN-γ and/or TNF-α) rotavirus-specific VP6-specific CD4 T cells were rarely detectable in children with rotavirus infection at both acute and convalescent stages. Moreover, following whole blood mitogenic stimulation, the responding CD4 T cells were predominantly non-cytokine producers of IFN-γ and/or TNF-α. Our findings demonstrate limited induction of anti-viral IFN-γ and/or TNF-α-producing CD4 T cells in rotavirus-vaccinated Malawian children following the development of laboratory-confirmed rotavirus infection.
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