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NK cells are endowed with immunological memory to a range of pathogens but the development of NK cell memory in bacterial infections remains elusive. Here, we establish an assay inducing memory-like NK cell response to Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of the severe bacterial disease called melioidosis, and explore NK cell memory in a melioidosis patient cohort. We show that NK cells require bacteria-primed monocytes to acquire memory-like properties, demonstrated by bacteria-specific responses, features that strongly associate with CD160 expression. Induction of this memory-like NK cell is partly dependent on CD160 and IL-12R. Importantly, CD160 expression identifies memory-like NK cells in a cohort of recovered melioidosis patients with heightened responses maintained at least 3 months post hospital admission and reduced numbers of this cell population independently correlate with recurrent melioidosis. These newly identified memory-like NK cells are a promising target for future vaccine design and for monitoring protection against infection.

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Cell biology, Immunity, Immunology, Microbiology