MAY 17, 2020 11:55 AM PDT

Substantial Antiviral Response Seen in Adults Recovered from COVID-19

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Some good news comes as researchers scramble for potential vaccine candidates amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology report that the human immune system is indeed capable of launching a full-fledged response when exposed to coronavirus. The report comes from a study of 20 adults who successfully recovered from COVID-19 without major problems.

The global search for SARS-CoV-19 vaccine candidates revolves around one big question: what is the human immune system capable of? Researchers know that in order to be successful with vaccination, the right candidate needs to be able to trigger an enduring, substantial immune response.

Another question also lingers: can exposure to other types of coronaviruses, like those that cause a mere cold, provide protective immunity? In the late 18th century, immunology pioneer Edward Jenner realized that infection with cowpox could provide an individual immunity against its more deadly and contagious cousin, smallpox, and the concept of vaccination was born. Perhaps scientists could make a similar connection in this 21st century pandemic.

"All efforts to predict the best vaccine candidates and fine-tune pandemic control measures hinge on understanding the immune response to the virus," explained La Jolla’s Shane Crotty, PhD.

The new study builds off of a previous bioinformatics study of how to predict which viral fragments could activate human T cells and initiate an immune response. In the most recent study, researchers analyzed samples from 20 adults who had recovered from COVID-19 without major problems, indicating a “normal” immune response.

In this analysis, researchers aimed to see if T cells isolated from these adults recognized the viral fragments identified in the bioinformatics study. They considered two main types of fragments, those from the coronavirus’s namesake, the “spike protein,” and those not from the spike protein. Promisingly, they observed a strong T cell response to all types of viral fragments, spike protein and others.

Researchers also saw a multi-faceted T cell response, both from CD4 “helper” T cells, which activate B cells and contribute to antibody production, and from CD8 “killer” T cells, which target and destroy cells the virus has already infected, preventing further infection.

Additionally, researchers analyzed T cells from blood samples collected years before the current coronavirus pandemic, observing that these immune responses also showed signs of T cell reactivity to the SARS-CoV-19, more likely than not because of exposure to common cold-causing coronaviruses that could initiate a similar immune response.

"People were really worried that COVID-19 doesn't induce immunity, and reports about people getting re-infected reinforced these concerns, but knowing now that the average person makes a solid immune response should largely put those concerns to rest,” Crotty said.

While the scientific community is still cautious and considering that in some cases, an excessive immune response may be harmful, the present study offers some promising conclusions. Going forward, scientists anticipate using their findings to look for differences in immune responses in different outcomes of COVID-19, i.e. hospitalization, asymptomatic cases, and mild infection cases. This understanding of the COVID-19 immune response also offers a way to test experimental vaccines for efficacy. Scientists still need to confirm the protective effect of previous exposure to common cold coronaviruses.

Source: La Jolla Institute for Immunology, Cell, Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 04, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Erectile Dysfunction Drug Cures Critical COVID-19 Patients
AUG 04, 2020
Erectile Dysfunction Drug Cures Critical COVID-19 Patients
Critically ill patients who received COVID-19 drug candidate aviptadil (RLF-100) were able to make a rapid recovery from ...
NOV 09, 2020
Microbiology
Fighting COVID-19 with Help From Llamas
NOV 09, 2020
Fighting COVID-19 with Help From Llamas
Camelids, which include llamas, alpacas and camels have immune systems that generate two kinds of antibodies when confro ...
NOV 15, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Antidepressant May Prevent Worsening of COVID-19 Infections
NOV 15, 2020
Antidepressant May Prevent Worsening of COVID-19 Infections
  Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that fluvoxamine, a common ...
NOV 25, 2020
Immunology
Another COVID-19 vaccine shows promising results!
NOV 25, 2020
Another COVID-19 vaccine shows promising results!
A week ago, another biotechnology company "Moderna" announced the preliminary results from its COVID-19 vaccin ...
NOV 10, 2020
Technology
Mistakes in COVID-19 Data Visualizations
NOV 10, 2020
Mistakes in COVID-19 Data Visualizations
The current COVID-19 pandemic that is the center of the 2020 experience has undoubtedly took social media by a storm. Ev ...
JAN 21, 2021
Health & Medicine
More Evidence Cannabis Can Calm a Cytokine Storm
JAN 21, 2021
More Evidence Cannabis Can Calm a Cytokine Storm
A new study out of Canada lends further evidence to the idea that cannabis components may help to calm the cytokine stor ...
Loading Comments...