Strong T-cell activation in response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in patients with multiple sclerosis on B-cell depleting therapies

Joyce Lei, Vanessa J. Kirschner, Grant Feuer, Michaela Malin, Jiayuan Liu, Morgan Roche, Jerry Lin, Roberto Alfonso, Saud A. Sadiq Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York


Many patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) undergo immunosuppressive B-cell depleting therapies which can severely limit their humoral immunity against SARS-CoV-2 (CoV2) infection or response to vaccination. While robust antibody production is seen in immunocompetent individuals, recent studies show that B-cell depleting therapies inhibit efficient production of antibodies against CoV2 proteins due to a reduction in circulating B-cells. It is unknown how these disease modifying therapies affect T-cell responses after CoV2 vaccination, and whether there is a correlation between CoV2 antibody levels and T-cell immunity.


Our ongoing single-center study aims to determine CoV2 spike protein-T-cell reactivity in fully vaccinated, B-cell depleted MS patients treated with rituximab or ocrelizumab, two well-characterized anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody drugs.


We collected peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and serum samples from anti-CD20-treated MS patients and from healthy control individuals at 15-93 days after completing vaccination. CoV2 IgG response was determined using anti-spike protein-based serology, and levels of proinflammatory cytokine (IL-2 and INF-Ɣ)release after protein-specific T-cell stimulation were measured ex vivo using an ELISpot assay.


We observed that out of 45 vaccinated anti-CD20-treated MS patients studied, 37 (82.2%) showed defective humoral immunity. Interestingly, most CoV2 spike IgG negative patients (35 out of 37, 94.6%) presented a T-cell response with positive expression of at least one cytokine.



Our results suggest the generation of a partial adaptive immune response to CoV2 vaccination in B-cell depleted individuals, driven by a functionally competent T-cell arm. Investigation into the role of T-cell response in these individuals is crucial to identifying their levels of protection against COVID-19.


--A version of this abstract was submitted and accepted to the SfN (Society for Neuroscience) 2021 meeting--

Abstract Date

April 6, 2022

Abstracts archive


Tisch MS Research Center of New York

521 West 57th Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10019
(646) 557-3900

Privacy Policy


Support Tisch MS

Support Tisch MS and our innovative research leading to treatments that improve the lives of patients.