T cells can protect the body against Sars-CoV-2

Hyperaxion May 15, 2020

These cells are responsible for protecting us from invading microorganisms, but their role against Sars-CoV-2 was still unknown.

Two new studies on the immune system of people infected with the new coronavirus are helping researchers understand the importance of T cells in the fight against Covid-19. These immune cells are responsible for protecting us from unknown invaders, but their role against Sars-CoV-2 was still unknown.

T cells can protect the body against Sars-CoV-2
T cells can identify and destroy a (green) cell infected with Sars-CoV-2 (yellow). (Credit: NIAID).

T cells can be divided into two groups: “helper” and “killer”. The first has the function of stimulating the action of B cells, which produce antibodies. The “killers” are dedicated to destroying cells infected with pathogens.

Using bioinformatics tools, a team from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, in the United States, was able to predict which parts of the new coronavirus proteins would cause a more powerful T-cell response. The findings were published last Thursday (14) in the journal Cell.

According to the researchers, they studied the immune system cells of ten patients who recovered from mild cases of Covid-19 and found that they all had T cells capable of recognizing the spike protein of Sars-CoV-2. Additionally, the volunteers also had helper T cells capable of reacting with other proteins of the new coronavirus.

The results coincide with those of a study conducted by a team at Charité University Hospital in Germany and published on medRxiv in late April. They identified the presence of helper T cells targeting the spike protein in 15 of the 18 patients hospitalized with Covid-19.

Both teams also looked at the immune systems of people who were not infected with Sars-CoV-2 – and found that a portion of them produce helper T cells capable of identifying the proteins in the new coronavirus. The hypothesis is that contact with other types of viruses has stimulated the production of these cells.

“One reason that a large chunk of the population may be able to deal with the virus is that we may have some small residual immunity from our exposure to common cold viruses,” explained immunologist Steven Varga, who participated in the research, in an interview with Science magazine.

Related topics:

Coronavirus Covid-19

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