Authors: Gallardo-Zapata J, Maldonado-Bernal C

PMID: 35733383 PMCID: PMC9389049 DOI: 10.1177/17534259221077750


At the end of 2019, an outbreak of a severe respiratory disease occurred in Wuhan China, and an increase in cases of unknown pneumonia was alerted. In January 2020, a new coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 was identified as the cause. The virus spreads primarily through the respiratory tract, and lymphopenia and cytokine storms have been observed in severely ill patients. This suggests the existence of an immune dysregulation as an accompanying event during a serious illness caused by this virus. Natural killer (NK) cells are innate immune responders, critical for virus shedding and immunomodulation. Despite its importance in viral infections, the contribution of NK cells in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 has yet to be deciphered. Different studies in patients with COVID-19 suggest a significant reduction in the number and function of NK cells due to their exhaustion. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of how NK cells respond to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Keywords: COVID-19; Natural killer cells; SARS-CoV-2; Toll-like receptor; cell exhaustion.