LATEST! COVID-19 News: Singapore Researchers Discover Evidence That SARS-CoV-2 T-Cell Immunity Is Present In The General Population To A Degree
: Researchers from Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School have discovered SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell immunity in recovered COVID-19 and SARS patients and in uninfected individuals as well. The Singapore study shows that SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells are present in all recovered COVID-19 patients and interestingly these T cells were also found in all subjects who recovered from SARS 17 years ago, and in over 50% of both SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 uninfected individuals tested.
These findings suggest that a level of pre-existing SARS-CoV-2 immunity is present in the general population.
The research findings were published in the journal: Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2550-z
Typically infection and exposure to coronaviruses induces long-lasting memory T cells, which could help in the management of the current pandemic.
These T cells, along with antibodies, are an integral part of the human immune response against viral infections due to their ability to directly target and kill infected cells.
The latest study by scientists from Duke-NUS Medical School, in close collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) suggest infection and exposure to coronaviruses induces long-lasting memory T cells, which could help in the management of the current pandemic and in vaccine development against COVID-19.
The study team tested subjects who recovered from COVID-19 and found the presence of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells in all of them, which suggests that T cells play an important role in this infection. Importantly, the team showed that patients who recovered from SARS 17 years ago after the 2003 outbreak, still possess virus-specific memory T cells and displayed cross-immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
Professor Dr Antonio Bertoletti, from Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) program, who is the corresponding author of this study told Thailand Medical News, “Our research team also tested uninfected healthy individuals and found SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells in more than 50 percent of them. This could be due to cross-reactive immunity obtained from exposure to other coronaviruses, such as those causing the common cold, or presently unknown animal coronaviruses. It is important to understand if this could explain why some individuals are able to better control the infection.”
Dr Tan Yee Joo, an Associate Professor from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Joint Senior Principal Investigator, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A*STAR added, “We have also initiated follow-up studies on the COVID-19 recovered patients, to determine if their immunity as shown in their T cells persists over an extended period of time. This is very important for vaccine development and to answer the question about reinfection.”
Associate Professor Dr Jenny Low, Senior Consultant, Department of Infectious Diseases, SGH, and Duke-NUS’ EID program further added, “While there have been many studies about SARS-CoV
-2, there is still a lot we don’t understand about the virus yet. What we do know is that T cells play an important role in the immune response against viral infections and should be assessed for their role in combating SARS-CoV-2, which has affected many people worldwide. Hopefully, our discovery will bring us a step closer to creating an effective vaccine.”
Dr Mark Chen I-Cheng, Head of the NCID Research Office commented, “NCID was heartened by the tremendous support we received from many previous SARS patients for this study. Their contributions, 17 years after they were originally infected, helped us understand mechanisms for lasting immunity to SARS-like viruses, and their implications for developing better vaccines against COVID-19 and related viruses.”
The research team will be conducting a larger study of exposed, uninfected subjects to examine whether T cells can protect against COVID-19 infection or alter the course of infection.
The study team will also be exploring the potential therapeutic use of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells and will be starting human trials in the next few weeks.
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