Natural killer (NK) cells play an important role in innate immune responses to viral infections. Here, we review recent insights into the role of NK cells in viral infections, with particular emphasis on human studies. We first discuss NK cells in the context of acute viral infections, with flavivirus and influenza virus infections as examples. Questions related to activation of NK cells, homing to infected tissues and the role of tissue-resident NK cells in acute viral infections are also addressed. Next, we discuss NK cells in the context of chronic viral infections with hepatitis C virus and HIV-1. Also covered is the role of adaptive-like NK cell expansions as well as the appearance of CD56 NK cells in the course of chronic infection. Specific emphasis is then placed in viral infections in patients with primary immunodeficiencies affecting NK cells. Not least, studies in this area have revealed an important role for NK cells in controlling several herpesvirus infections. Finally, we address new data with respect to the activation of NK cells and NK cell function in humans infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) giving rise to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
About The Expert
Niklas K Björkström