SEP 24, 2020 7:00 AM PDT

Remember That Coronavirus You Once Met? Your T Cells Do.

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

The SARS-CoV-2 virus was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei, China, and quickly escalated to pandemic status. From an immunological perspective, were global populations sitting ducks, entirely defenseless against this newly emerged viral killer? According to scientists, the answer is no, thanks to a subset of immune cells called memory T cells.

Researchers in Singapore set out to map T cell responses to COVID infections in patients who have previously recovered from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), those who only got COVID-19, as well as healthy, uninfected people. SARS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a closely-related coronavirus to the one that causes COVID-19. The study was published in the journal Nature.

Antonio Bertoletti, a senior author of the paper said that T cells play a central role in protecting us against viruses. “This concept has been present in the scientific community for over 50 years, but so far has been largely ignored in discussions related to COVID-19 immunity,” said Bertoletti.

Interestingly, the patients who had previously come down with SARS — up to 17 years ago — produced strong T cell responses to the N protein, an abundant viral protein that is similar in SARS-CoV-1 and 2. It wasn’t just those with prior SARS infections that had this response — even the healthy controls in the cohort produced similar immune responses.

“There is this idea of the total absence of immunity against coronaviruses in the general population, which is clearly incorrect,” explained Bertoletti. “Other coronaviruses have always been circulating in humans.” 

Most people have been exposed to some type of coronavirus in their lives, which in many cases, may produce no symptoms at all. This large group of viruses causes diseases in animals often circulating among camels, cats, and bats. In cases such as COVID-19, the coronavirus can evolve to infect people. The study reveals the long-lasting memory and overlap between the T cells that recognize SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, which could explain differences in the severity of symptoms in COVID-19 patients.

 

 

Sources: Nature, A*STAR Research.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
JUL 26, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Cells Have a Self-Defense Mechanism Against Bacteria
JUL 26, 2021
Cells Have a Self-Defense Mechanism Against Bacteria
There are natural detergents that cells can use to defend themselves from pathogens. Scientists have now identified a pr ...
AUG 10, 2021
Immunology
A Tapeworm Drug as a COVID Antiviral?
AUG 10, 2021
A Tapeworm Drug as a COVID Antiviral?
A study by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute looking into potential COVID-19 medications has revealed a surp ...
AUG 10, 2021
Immunology
An Immune Molecule Helps Create 'Good' Fat
AUG 10, 2021
An Immune Molecule Helps Create 'Good' Fat
Not all fat is ‘bad’—there’s white fat that builds up when excess calories are consumed. But, th ...
SEP 01, 2021
Coronavirus
It Seems Not All COVID-19 Patients Develop Antibodies
SEP 01, 2021
It Seems Not All COVID-19 Patients Develop Antibodies
It's been generally assumed that people who get infected with SARS-COV-2 will develop antibodies to the virus, which cau ...
SEP 28, 2021
Immunology
Cell Therapy Scrubs Tumors, Spares Transplanted Organs
SEP 28, 2021
Cell Therapy Scrubs Tumors, Spares Transplanted Organs
Hepatitis B infections have created a ‘silent epidemic’—infected people don’t display any sympto ...
OCT 12, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Preventing future pandemics - Scientists developing broadly protective vaccines against coronaviruses
OCT 12, 2021
Preventing future pandemics - Scientists developing broadly protective vaccines against coronaviruses
Researchers at Japan’s Osaka University recently developed and tested a novel vaccine that may protect a ...
Loading Comments...