The coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic is currently spreading like wildfire around the world with the major nations grappling to find a way to fight back and contain the spread of the novel virus. Countries like the US, Brazil and Russia are currently experiencing the worst of the pandemic as most of the hospitals are running out of beds and other facilities to provide for the patients.
In a recent study, led by immunologist Professor Antonio Bertoletti and his colleagues from the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, the researchers discovered remarkable facts regarding the role of T-cells for fighting COVID-19.
What are T-Cells or 'Memory'?
T-cells are a type of white blood cell that form a part of the immunity system's second line of defense against any viral attack, which is kicking in around a week after the infection. They are dubbed as 'memory' as they have been thought of giving lasting protection to viruses.
Scientists found that some immunity might be present for many years due to the body's T-cells or the 'memory' from the attacks by the previous viruses having an identical genetic make-up, even among the people having no exposure to COVID-19 or SARS.
Common Cold Helpful to Protect From COVID-19
The study suggests that some forms of the common cold might be helpful in giving protection from the COVID-19 and the immunity can also last up to 17 years. The researchers claim that the patients who had previously suffered colds caused due to viruses related to the COVID-19, which are called betacoronaviruses, can have immunity or might suffer a tolerant form of the disease.
Betacoronaviruses, specifically OC43 and HKU1, are the ones that cause common colds along with severe chest infections in the youngest and oldest patients. The genetic features of these betacoronaviruses strongly resemble the coronavirus COVID-19, SARS, MERS all of which got transmitted from animals to humans. The coronavirus rate responsible for 30 percent of all the colds, it is not known specifically how many are caused due to betacoronavirus types.
Further Trials Required to Back Study
However, the protective effect of the cells against the new coronavirus needs to be proved in further trials but according to experts, patients who recovered from the SARS show immune responses to COVID-19.
"These findings demonstrate that virus-specific memory T-cells induced by betacoronavirus infection are long-lasting, which supports the notion that Covid-19 patients would develop long-term T-cell immunity," researchers mentioned as quoted by Daily Mail.
"Our findings also raise the intriguing possibility that infection with related viruses can also protect from or modify the pathology caused by SARS-Cov-2 [the strain of coronavirus that causes Covid-19]," they added.
For the study, blood was taken from 24 patients who had recovered from the new coronavirus, 23 who fell ill due to SARS and 18 who had never got exposed to both. As per the scientists, half of the patients with no exposure to the two coronaviruses had T-cells showing immune response to the animal betacoronaviruses, COVID-19 and SARS. This suggested that the immunity of the patients developed due to the exposure to common cold caused due to betacoronaviruses or possibly from other and unknown pathogens.