Prolonged shedding of viral RNA occurs in some individuals following SARS-CoV-2 infection. We perform comprehensive immunologic evaluation of one individual with prolonged shedding. The case subject recovered from severe COVID-19 and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA repeatedly as many as 87 days after the first positive test, 97 days after symptom onset. The subject did not have any associated rise in anti-Spike protein antibody titers or plasma neutralization activity, arguing against re-infection. This index subject exhibited a profoundly diminished circulating CD8+ T cell population and correspondingly low SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cell responses when compared with a cohort of other recovering COVID-19 subjects. CD4+ T cell responses and neutralizing antibody responses developed as expected in this individual. Our results demonstrate that detectable viral RNA shedding in the upper airway can occur more than 3 months following infection in some individuals with COVID-19 and suggest that impaired CD8+ T cells may play a role in prolonged viral RNA shedding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number618402
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Jan 8 2021


  • CD4+ T cell
  • CD8+ T cell
  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • cellular immunity


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