COVID-19 Research: Study Shows How Cytokine Storms Actually Depletes T-Cells In COVID-19 Patients
COVID-19 Research: A new research by Chinese medical scientists indicates that inflammatory immune response can cause T cells to become depleted, affecting patient outcomes in COVID-19 cases and leaving them prone to secondary infection.
According to the research findings published in Frontiers in Immunology Journal
, cytokine storms may affect the severity of COVID-19 cases by lowering T cell counts. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.00827/full
Medical researchers studying SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus cases in China found that sick individuals had a significantly low number of T cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in immune response, and that T cell counts were negatively correlated with case severity.
Significantly, the medical researchers also found a high concentration of cytokines, a protein that normally helps fight off infection. Excessive cytokines can trigger an excessive inflammatory response known as a cytokine storm, which causes the proteins to attack healthy cells.
The study findings suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus does not attack T cells directly, but rather triggers the cytokine release, which then drives the depletion and exhaustion of T cells.
The research findings offer clues on how to target treatment for COVID-19, which has become a worldwide pandemic and a widespread threat to human health in the past few months.
Dr Yongwen Chen of Third Military Medical University in China who is the lead author of the study told Thailand Medical News, “We should pay more attention to T cell counts and their function, rather than respiratory function of patients, more urgently as early intervention may be required in patients with low T lymphocyte counts.”
Dr Chen said that he and his co-authors became interested in examining T cells when they noticed that many of the patients they treated for COVID-19 had abnormally low numbers of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that includes T cells.
He added, “Considering T cells’ central role of response against viral infections, especially in the early stage when antibodies are not boosted yet, we took the T cells as our focal point.”
The researchers studied 522 patients with coronavirus along with 40 healthy controls. All patients studied were admitted to two hospitals in Wuhan, China between December 2019 and January 2020, and ages ranged between 5 days and 97 years old. Of the 499 patients who had their lymphocytes recorded, 76% had significantly low total T cell counts. ICU patients had significantly lower T cell counts compared with non-ICU cases, and patients over the age of 60 had the lowest number of T cells.
Interestingly, the T cells that did survive were exhausted and could not function at full capacity. Not only does this have implications for COVID-19 patient outcomes, but T cell exhaustion leaves patients more vulnerable to secondary infection and calls for scrupulous care.
Dr Chen says that future studies should focus on finding finer subpopulations of T cells in order to discover their vulnerability and effect in disease, along with identifying drugs that recove
r T cell numbers and boost function.
The researchers also say that drugs that can suppress cytokine storms and antivirals that can prevent the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus replications may also prevent the progression of T cell exhaustion, but all future treatments will entail detail research of such drugs.
The new study findings extend medical researchers understanding of how the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus affects the human body and it paves the way to find solutions to lessen its lethal effects.
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