Immune boosting by B.1.1.529 (Omicron) depends on previous SARS-CoV-2 exposure

The Omicron, or Pango lineage B.1.1.529, variant of SARS-CoV-2 carries multiple spike mutations with high transmissibility and partial neutralizing antibody (nAb) escape. Vaccinated individuals show protection from severe disease, often attributed to primed cellular immunity. We investigated T and B cell immunity against B.1.1.529 in triple mRNA vaccinated healthcare workers (HCW) with different SARS-CoV-2 infection histories. B and T cell immunity against previous variants of concern was enhanced in triple vaccinated individuals, but magnitude of T and B cell responses against B.1.1.529 spike protein was reduced.

Immune imprinting by infection with the earlier B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant resulted in less durable binding antibody against B.1.1.529. Previously infection-naΓ―ve HCW who became infected during the B.1.1.529 wave showed enhanced immunity against earlier variants, but reduced nAb potency and T cell responses against B.1.1.529 itself. Previous Wuhan Hu-1 infection abrogated T cell recognition and any enhanced cross-reactive neutralizing immunity on infection with B.1.1.529