JUN 04, 2020 6:30 AM PDT

Low T Cells Linked To High COVID Risk

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandes

German scientists have identified a connection between immune cell counts and the risk of developing severe, potentially life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19. The team, led by professor of virology, Ulf Dittmer, found that people who have low T cell counts at the time of infection have higher odds of developing a severe form of COVID-19. The study was published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

The numbers of a particular subpopulation of T cells, called cytotoxic T cells, in the blood were found to be central to this response. These immune cells protect the body by killing cancerous or virally-infected cells. 

It’s not just the number of T cells that count. The ratio of cytotoxic T cells to another type of immune cell, neutrophils, was also found to be important. T cells and neutrophils serve different but complementary roles in the protective immune response and have strong regulatory effects on each other.

“If there are too many neutrophils in the blood, they tend to suppress the function of T-cells. It can, therefore, be assumed that an elevated number of neutrophils in COVID-19 patients might contribute to a decrease in T cell counts,” explained Dittmer.

Common initial symptoms following coronavirus infection include fever, cough, fatigue, and diarrhea. More severe symptoms typically develop around a week later, in which the conditions of these patients rapidly deteriorate as acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, sets in. As symptoms progress, COVID-19 has also led to heart, kidney and liver damage and, in the worst cases, death. Being able to identify patients most at risk would allow physicians to initiate intensive interventions earlier and improve clinical outcomes.

 

 

The team’s investigation looked at 40 COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China. Their studies suggest that a simple blood test for T cell and neutrophil counts should be done to quickly pick out at-risk COVID-19 patients. These patients need to be monitored more closely and perhaps be treated at an earlier stage, said Dittmer.

Patients receiving medications or therapies that can damage T cells, such as chemotherapy, should also be more closely monitored given this finding. 

The team’s finding also has implications for the development of a vaccine against the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2. A vaccine capable of shielding against infection may not only need to trigger the production of antibodies, but also activate T cell responses in order to confer robust protection.

 

Sources: Innovation Origins, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine.


 

About the Author
PhD
Interested in health technology and innovation.
You May Also Like
JUN 17, 2022
Immunology
Stress Accelerates Immune System Aging
JUN 17, 2022
Stress Accelerates Immune System Aging
Stress, from problems that people experience every day like tension and strain at work to more traumatic events like the ...
JUN 21, 2022
Cancer
Advanced Lung Cancer Diagnosis Linked to Socioeconomic Status
JUN 21, 2022
Advanced Lung Cancer Diagnosis Linked to Socioeconomic Status
Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both males and females, and an estimated 120,000 peop ...
JUN 25, 2022
Immunology
A Link Between Hair Growth and the Immune System is Revealed
JUN 25, 2022
A Link Between Hair Growth and the Immune System is Revealed
Salk Institute researchers studying alopecia have learned more about the link between immunity and hair growth.
JUL 04, 2022
Coronavirus
Some Neurodegenerative Diseases are More Likely After COVID-19
JUL 04, 2022
Some Neurodegenerative Diseases are More Likely After COVID-19
European researchers analyzed the health records of about half the entire population of Denmark, which included 919,731 ...
JUL 06, 2022
Technology
New Prosthetic Provides Relief to Diabetic Amputees
JUL 06, 2022
New Prosthetic Provides Relief to Diabetic Amputees
Diabetes is one of the most prominent chronic conditions in the world. In the U.S. alone, diabetes affects about 10% of ...
AUG 11, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
New Tuberculosis Vaccine Enters Phase III Clinical Trial
AUG 11, 2022
New Tuberculosis Vaccine Enters Phase III Clinical Trial
Tuberculosis is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is spread through the air when a person ...
Loading Comments...