(ORDO NEWS) — A new study has shown that in some people, the immune system may have an advantage in the fight against coronavirus.
A study published last month in the journal Cell showed that some people who have never been exposed to coronavirus have helper T cells that can recognize and respond to it.
According to the researchers, the most likely explanation for this surprising discovery is a phenomenon called cross-reactivity: T cells develop in response to another virus, and respond to a similar but previously unknown pathogen.
In this case, these T cells may remain after the previous contact of people with another coronavirus – probably one of the four that cause SARS.
“You start with a small advantage: an arms race begins between the virus that wants to multiply and the immune system that wants to eliminate it,” said Alessandro Sette, one of the co-authors of the study.
He added that cross-reactive assisted T cells can “help generate a faster and stronger immune response.”
In their study, a team of scientists tested the immune system of 20 people who got coronavirus and recovered, as well as blood samples from 20 people that were collected between 2015 and 2018 (that is, there was no chance that these people were exposed to the new coronavirus )
Among the 20 people whose blood samples were taken before the pandemic, 50 percent had a type of white blood cell called CD4 + – T-cells that help the immune system produce antibodies – capable of recognizing a new coronavirus and causing a rebuff to the immune system.
More research is needed to find out whether and to what extent this cross-reactivity affects the severity of the disease.
“It is too early to conclude that cross-reactivity plays a role in the moderate or severe clinical outcome of COVID-19 or the extent of infection in populations,” said Mailer Bernard, a scientist at CEA / Université de Paris-Saclay in France, told Business Insider.
Among the group of coronavirus patients studied in the new study, only two had severe cases; the remaining 90 percent were mild or moderate.
Scientists examined the blood of patients for the presence of two types of white blood cells: CD4 + cells and CD8 + cells, which are killers of T cells, which in turn attack virus-infected cells.
The results showed that all 20 patients produced antibodies and T cells capable of recognizing coronavirus and reacting accordingly.
This suggests that in the future the body will be able to identify itself and defend itself from the coronavirus.
“Obviously, we cannot confidently tell you what will happen in 15 years, because the virus exists only for several months. Therefore, no one knows whether this immune response is long-lived or not,” Sette said.
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