Some people immune to corona? This is what the T cells have to do with it

December 04, 2021 – 8:36 am clock

Find the super vaccine

Not all people who are exposed to Sars-CoV-2 get sick – this is known. British researchers have now examined a number of hospital workers who have never been infected, at least with the original wild-type coronavirus, on the job. The study could help find the super vaccine.

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Researchers examined the blood of 58 people

An infection with the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus can range from symptom-free to the most severe illness. Some healthcare workers were exposed to the virus from the outset. In Great Britain, researchers have identified and examined 58 people who, despite their work in Covid wards, never became infected: All PCR and antibody tests were always negative – although colleagues next to them were infected in rows despite protective measures. The research results were recently published in a previously unchecked publication in the specialist journal “Nature”.

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Elevated levels of certain T cells

During the investigation, the researchers found, according to “ntv”, that there were elevated levels of certain T cells in 20 blood samples. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s really surprising that T cells can control infection so quickly,” said Shane Crotty, an immunologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California who was not involved in the research “Nature” cited. It appears that these people’s immune systems are able to fight off the virus before it can establish itself and spread. Such a process is called “abortive infection” in technical terms.

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These people’s immune systems are already prepared

The fast and effective defense could come about through these specific T cells, which are also known as memory cells. It could be that these people’s immune systems were already prepared to fight the new disease, said Leo Swadling of University College London, who was involved in the study, according to the BBC.

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According to the researchers, the T cells are able to recognize and fight the complex of several virus proteins, so that the replication of the virus, the so-called replication complex, is deactivated and thus completely stopped. The researchers found these T cells not only more frequently in the blood of those who had shown no signs of infection, but also in samples taken before the pandemic.

Cross immunity: T cells from cold viruses?

It is therefore conceivable that these T cells were created in the body before the pandemic through infections with one of the four known human coronaviruses that trigger cold symptoms. This could lead to a so-called cross immunity. However, as long as one does not know when and by what means the effective T cells were activated, other infections or causes may also come into question.

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During the investigations, the presence of a so-called immune protein was also found in 19 samples, which is referred to as IFI 27 and which, for the researchers around Leo Swadling, is an indication of direct contact with Sars-CoV-2. However, this is not proof of direct contact with the corona virus, as experts who were not involved in the study emphasized.

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New vaccine: targeting replication complex instead of spike protein

The authors themselves warn against drawing false conclusions. The results did not show that people who had a cold were protected from Covid-19. In fact, it is too early to say with certainty based on the results that the immune system could prevent infection from occurring. It is also unclear whether the same mechanisms of the immune system also apply to the currently dominant delta variant.

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Although the study cannot answer many questions, it does give an indication of where Sars-CoV-2 could still be vulnerable. So far, vaccine development has focused primarily on the virus’ spike protein, which is used by the virus to enter the cell. Now one could focus on the proteins that control the replication complex for reproduction, because this complex is the same for many coronaviruses. (s)

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