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 30, 2020
Immunology
Sunshine Could Lower Your Risk of Developing MS
JUL 30, 2020
Sunshine Could Lower Your Risk of Developing MS
In multiple sclerosis, or MS, the insulating sheaths around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called myelin becom ...
AUG 21, 2020
Microbiology
Vaccine Aimed at Fungi May Also Protect Against MRSA
AUG 21, 2020
Vaccine Aimed at Fungi May Also Protect Against MRSA
Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium. If it stays on the skin it's harmless, but if it gets into the bloodstream, ...
OCT 06, 2020
Immunology
COVID Triggers Abnormalities in Immune Monocytes
OCT 06, 2020
COVID Triggers Abnormalities in Immune Monocytes
University of Manchester immunologists are the first to make an interesting observation about the white blood cells of p ...
OCT 08, 2020
Immunology
Immuno Metabolic Complexity and Modulating Metabolites
OCT 08, 2020
Immuno Metabolic Complexity and Modulating Metabolites
Immunometabolism is a relatively new subspecialty of immunology as we’ve begun to unravel the complex metabolic re ...
OCT 12, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
The Malaria Parasite Can Change Host Cell Genetics
OCT 12, 2020
The Malaria Parasite Can Change Host Cell Genetics
Mosquitoes can transmit the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite to humans. Malaria was estimated to have caused the deat ...
OCT 24, 2020
Immunology
New CRISPR-Based Imaging Tool Is Going to Be HiUGE
OCT 24, 2020
New CRISPR-Based Imaging Tool Is Going to Be HiUGE
A team of researchers at Duke University have developed an imaging technology for tagging structures at a cellular level ...
Loading Comments...