Corona: lung failure due to overreaction of the immune system

According to researchers from the Ruhr area, insufficient immunity is not the trigger for lung failure in corona. It’s rather the opposite.

The dreaded lung failure with severe courses of Covid-19 does not arise from poor immunity. On the contrary, an excessive immune system reaction seems to contribute to this. A research team from Bochum and Essen under the direction of Prof. Dr. Nina Babel, Head of the Center for Translational Medicine at the RUB-Klinikum Marien-Hospital Herne.

The team of researchers from the Marien-Hospital Herne and the Virology of the Ruhr

University of Bochum (RUB) as well as the clinics for infectious diseases and anesthesia and the Institute for Virology at the University Medical Center Essen examined specific antibodies and T cells in the course of the disease in mildly and severely ill and later deceased Covid-19 patients. The researchers found comparable immune reactions.

Antibodies fight viruses

This is how the immune system fights viruses. Antibodies and T lymphocytes are among the most important elements of the immune defense against viruses. The antibodies bind to certain virus receptors and thus prevent viruses from entering the host cell. They also mark the infected cells for other immune system actors, who then kill the cell. Virus-specific T lymphocytes, on the other hand, can kill infected cells directly and very efficiently.

During the past few weeks, several studies on the analysis of such cell-killing Sars-Cov-2-specific T cells in patients with Covid-19 have been published. They found that such cells were mainly found in patients who had been through Covid-19 disease, which suggests their protective antiviral effect.

On the other hand, some studies suggest that an excessive immune response could be the cause of the severe Covid-19 courses. The role of Sars-Cov-2-specific T cells in this excessive immune response is unclear.

In the current study, the research team analyzed immune responses in patients during the course of Covid 19 disease. “So we wanted the importance of T cells and antibodies in controlling the

Examine the infection and the disease, ”explains Prof. Dr. Nina Babel, the head of the study. “The novelty of our study is that we have Sars-Cov-2-specific T cells and antibodies in relation to the Course of disease and virus elimination have analyzed. We were able to determine that a strong T-cell and antibody response was not only detectable in patients with a mild Covid-19 course or after a defeated virus infection. “

Stronger immunity in the event of lung failure

Comparable or even stronger immunity to Sars-Cov-2 was found in patients with the most severe courses and Covid-19-related lung failure.

“The number of specific immune cells and their functionality were not better in the course of the disease in patients who survived Covid-19 than in those who died from it,” says Dr. Ulrik Stervbo, laboratory manager at the Center for Translational Medicine. There was also no difference in the strength and functionality of the immune response between the patients with persistent and survived Sars-Cov-2 infection.

The immune response leads to life-threatening courses

“Although further studies are needed to understand the specific mechanism of Covid-19-associated lung failure, our data indicate that an excessive Sars-Cov-2-specific T-cell immune response triggers immunopathogenesis and thus leads to life-threatening Processes lead, ”emphasizes Nina Babel. “The results of current studies on the successful use of immunosuppressive therapies for Covid-19 support this hypothesis,” summarizes Prof. Dr. Timm Westhoff, Director of the Medical Clinic I of the Marien Hospital in Herne.


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