Memory T cells from the common cold also protect against SARS-CoV-2

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from the UK have found in the blood of people not infected after exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, higher levels of memory T cells produced by infection with other coronaviruses during the common cold. Targets discovered with their help can become the basis for a new generation of vaccines.

One of the likely fate that scientists predict the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is to become endemic, like the other four human coronaviruses known today: OC43, HKU1, 229E and NL-63.Endemic coronaviruses, as a rule, maintain a certain carrier pool in one region, are seasonal and are responsible for 15-30% of respiratory diseases in children and adults.

It has previously been shown that T cells induced by other coronaviruses can recognize SARS-CoV-2. In a new work, scientists from Imperial College London have found that the presence of these T cells in the body upon contact with the pathogen Covid-19 affects the risk of infection.

The study began in September 2020, when most people in the UK were neither infected nor vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. The sample included 52 people who lived with someone with PCR-confirmed coronavirus disease and were therefore exposed to the virus.

Participants did PCR tests immediately after finding the virus in someone in the household, and four and seven days later to determine if they had developed an infection.

One to six days after exposure to the virus, blood samples were taken from the study participants and the levels of cross-reactive T cells induced by previous cold-related coronavirus infections, which also recognize the SARS-CoV-2 proteins, were determined.

It turned out that the level of these cross-reactive T cells was statistically significantly higher in the 26 people who did not get infected, compared with the other two study participants who had a positive PCR test after the incubation period. Interestingly, this turned out to be true only for T cells, specific for the internal proteins of the cell, but not the spike protein, which many vaccines against Covid-19 “target”.

Thus, these intrinsic proteins offer a new vaccine target capable of providing longer lasting protection, since the memory T cell immune response persists longer than the antibody response. This offers the chance to create a versatile second generation vaccine that can prevent infection with existing and future SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the omicron strain.

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