Pre-existing cross-reactive immune responses to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) proteins in infection-naive subjects have been described by several studies. In particular, regions of high homology between SARS-CoV-2 and common cold coronaviruses have been highlighted as a likely source of this cross-reactivity. However, the role of such cross-reactive responses in the outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination is currently unclear. Here, we review evidence regarding the impact of pre-existing humoral and T cell immune responses to outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination. Furthermore, we discuss the importance of conserved coronavirus epitopes for the rational design of pan-coronavirus vaccines and consider cross-reactivity of immune responses to ancestral SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-2 variants, as well as their impact on COVID-19 vaccination.
Nat rev immunol
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