Study Shows Immune System Response in Patients with Coronavirus

Researchers in Australia tested blood samples at 4 different time points in an otherwise healthy adult woman who presented with COVID-19 and had mild-to-moderate symptoms requiring hospital admission.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne were able to map the immune response of patients from Australia’s initial wave of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, demonstrating the body’s ability to fight the virus and recover from the infection, according to a study published in Nature Medicine.

The study included testing blood samples at 4 different time points in an otherwise healthy adult woman who presented with COVID-19 and had mild-to-moderate symptoms requiring hospital admission.

The study details how the patient’s immune system responded to the virus. Oanh Nguyen, MD, a research fellow, said that it was the first time that broad immune responses to COVID-19 have been reported.

“We looked at the whole breadth of the immune response in this patient using the knowledge we have built over many years of looking at immune responses in patients hospitalized with influenza,” Nguyen said.

The researchers were able to study this response by using Sentinel Travelers and Research Preparedness for Emerging Infectious Disease (SETREP-ID). SETREP-ID is a platform that enables a broad range of biological sampling to take place in returned travelers in the event of a new and unexpected infectious disease outbreak, which is exactly how COVID-19 started in Australia.

The team was able to dissect the immune response that lead to a successful recovery from COVID-19, which might be the secret to finding an effective vaccine. Researchers showed that even though COVID-19 is caused by a new virus, in an otherwise healthy person, a robust immune response across different cell types was associated with clinical recovery, similar to what is seen in influenza.

Current estimates show more than 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild-to-moderate and researchers believe that it is important to understand the immune response in these mild cases.

The researchers hope to expand our work nationally and internationally to understand why some people die from COVID-19 and build further knowledge to assist in the rapid response of COVID-19 and future emerging viruses.

Reference

  • COVID-19: The immune system can fight back [news release]. The University of Melbourne website. Published March 17, 2020. https://about.unimelb.edu.au/newsroom/news/2020/march/covid-19-the-immune-system-can-fight-back. Accessed March 19, 2020.