If antibodies fall short, T-cells may help Covid-19 immunity

Published Aug 18, 2020


CAPE TOWN - T-cells may provide prolonged immunity to Covid-19, even longer than antibodies. With T-cell testing kits now available for research purposes, this may change the perspective on the fight against Covid-19.

Antibodies fighting Covid-19 has been a popular topic with scientists looking to identify how long these virus-fighting plasma cells may provide immunity but as there have been reports of Covid-19 patients testing low counts of antibodies after recovery, T-cells may do the job and may even provide longer immunity against the virus with a company called Indoor Biotechnologies in Cardiff, England, developing a T-cell test kit in hopes to assist research and newer vaccine developments.

T-cells form one of the main components of the adaptive immune system by directly fighting infected host cells along with activating other immune cells to support the fight. T-cells also show longer memory spans than antibodies produced by B-cells which most people are aware of and have shown to provide immunity between 2-3 months only.

As T-cells have been more difficult to test with only a handful of laboratories able to test volume levels according to Dr Hindley, whose PhD was in T cells, testing procedures also needed various machinery and much labour.

With the breakthrough of test kits able to provide T-cell counts now available, this may offer a new perspective on how to fight Covid-19 with a study from Karolinska University Hospital, that has collected samples from over 200 people, found virus-fighting T-cells in Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms and asymptomatic patients even beyond the point of which antibodies fade.

One of the main authors on the study report and Assistant professor at the Center for Infectious Medicine at the Karolinska Institute, Marcus Buggert said “Advanced analyses have now enabled us to map in detail the T-cell response during and after a Covid-19 infection. Our results indicate that roughly twice as many people have developed T-cell immunity compared with those who we can detect antibodies in.”

Soo Aleman from Karolinska University Hospital’s infection clinic says “One interesting observation was that it wasn’t just individuals with verified Covid-19 who showed T-cell immunity but also many of their exposed asymptomatic family members. Moreover, roughly 30 percent of the blood donors who’d given blood in May 2020 had Covid-19-specific T cells, a figure that’s much higher than previous antibody tests have shown.”

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