T cells may be sufficient to protect from virus: Study

That compares to 20 confirmed infections among participants who saw low T cell responses.

Picture: Pixabay

LONDON: High levels of so-called “T cells” that respond to the C-19 virus could be sufficient to offer protection against infection, an English study said on Tuesday, adding to the evidence of the crucial role they play in immunity to C-19.

T cells, a type of white blood cell that makes up part of a healthy immune system, are thought to be essential to protect against infection from the SARS-COV-2 C-virus, and could provide longer term immunity than antibodies.

The study on nearly 3,000 people, conducted by Oxford Immunotec and Public Health England (PHE), found that no participants with a high T cell response developed symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection when researchers followed up with them.

That compares to 20 confirmed infections among participants who saw low T cell responses.

“This suggests individuals with higher numbers of T-cells recognising SARS-CoV-2 may have some level of protection from C-19, although more research is required to confirm this,” said David Wyllie, Consultant Microbiologist at Public Health England.

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The study was a pre-print, and has not been published in a journal or peer reviewed.

The researchers suggested that the importance of T cells in the immune response might mean serological testing to detect antibodies would not paint a full picture of who was at lower risk of infection in the population.

They also said that levels of SARS-CoV-2 responsive T cells declined with age, especially in the absence of antibodies, possibly explaining why older people are more at risk from C-19.

Oxford Immunotec, which has a platform designed to measure T cell response, has been enlisted by Britain to provide testing to assess different coronavirus vaccine candidates.

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