Intestinal helminth infection impairs vaccine-induced T cell responses and protection against SARS-CoV-2

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Although vaccines have reduced COVID-19 disease burden, their efficacy in helminth infection endemic areas is not well characterized. We evaluated the impact of infection by Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri (Hpb), a murine intestinal hookworm, on the efficacy of an mRNA vaccine targeting the Wuhan-1 spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Although immunization generated similar B cell responses in Hpb-infected and uninfected mice, polyfunctional CD4 + and CD8 + T cell responses were markedly reduced in Hpb-infected mice. Hpb-infected and mRNA vaccinated mice were protected against the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 strain WA1/2020, but control of lung infection was diminished against an Omicron variant compared to animals immunized without Hpb infection. Helminth mediated suppression of spike-specific CD8 + T cell responses occurred independently of STAT6 signaling, whereas blockade of IL-10 rescued vaccine-induced CD8 + T cell responses. In mice, intestinal helminth infection impairs vaccine induced T cell responses via an IL-10 pathway and compromises protection against antigenically shifted SARS-CoV-2 variants.

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