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Correspondence on ‘SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in rituximab-treated patients: evidence for impaired humoral but inducible cellular immune response’
  1. Timm H Westhoff1,
  2. Felix S Seibert1,
  3. Moritz Anft2,3,
  4. Arturo Blazquez-Navarro2,3,4,
  5. Sarah Skrzypczyk2,3,
  6. Adrian Doevelaar1,
  7. Bodo Hölzer1,
  8. Krystallenia Paniskaki5,
  9. Sebastian Dolff5,
  10. Benjamin Wilde6,
  11. Oliver Witzke6,
  12. Juergen Braun7,
  13. Ulrik Stervbo2,3,4,
  14. Nina Babel2,3,4
  1. 1Medical Department I, Marien Hospital Herne - University Hospital of the Ruhr-University Bochum, Herne, Germany
  2. 2Immundiagnostik, Marien Hospital Herne - University Hospital of the Ruhr-University Bochum, Herne, Germany
  3. 3Center for Translational Medicine, Marien Hospital Herne - University Hospital of the Ruhr-University Bochum, Herne, Germany
  4. 4Berlin Center for Advanced Therapies (BeCAT), Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  5. 5Department of Infectious Diseases, West German Centre of Infectious Diseases, University Hospital Essen, University Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany
  6. 6Department of Nephrology, University Hospital Essen, University Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany
  7. 7Rheumazentrum Ruhrgebiet, University Hospital of the Ruhr University Bochum, Herne, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Professor Nina Babel, Center for Translational Medicine and Diagnostic Immunology, Marien Hospital Herne - University Hospital of the Ruhr-University Bochum, Herne, Germany; nina.babel{at}

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We read with a great interest the article published by Bonelli et al suggesting an inducible cellular immune response in rituximab (Rtx) treated patients.1 The CD20-antibody Rtx is one of the most widespread biologicals worldwide with a broad spectrum of oncological and rheumatological indications. Due to its depleting effect on circulating B cells, the generation of antibodies against novel pathogens is impaired in Rtx-treated patients.2 3 Accordingly, the last EULAR recommendations on vaccination advised that ‘vaccination should be provided at least 6 months after the last administration and 4 weeks before the next course of B cell-depleting therapy’.4 To ensure appropriate SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, the last EULAR advise was to refer to a rheumatologist.5 The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has recommended to vaccinate Rtx-treated patients not earlier than 5 months after the last administration with the next cycle given not earlier than 2–4 weeks thereafter.6 In any case, the combination of B cell-depleting therapy with vaccination has been quite a challenge for patients and physicians—especially since it became clear that Rtx therapy may be associated with unfavourable outcomes in B cell-depleted patients.7 Fortunately, very recent data by Bonelli et al have now suggested that a cellular response is mounted after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in Rtx-treated patients despite a failed humoral immune response.1 The authors demonstrated that peripheral blood cells of vaccinated patients do produce Interferon γ (IFNγ) after stimulation with SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein-derived overlapping peptides.1 These results increase the scientific interest into a more detailed characterisation of vaccine-reactive T-cell immunity, which has recently been in the focus of our group as well due to a frequent Rtx application in our settings.

Applying multiparameter flow cytometry, we explored the …

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  • Contributors TW, FSS, AD, SD, KP, BW, BH and JB were responsible for the patient management, clinical data collection, sample collection and immunisation. MA, SS and US were involved in sample analysis. AB-N was responsible for statistical analysis and graphical presentation. NB, TW, FSS and US prepared and revised draft of the manuscript. NB supervised the study. All authors have read and revised manuscript, if required.

  • Funding The study was supported by grant of Mercator Stiftung and BMBF grant noChro.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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