Researchers have identified the mechanisms behind the worsening of the immune system in response to different viral infections, a discovery that might help in the development of new therapeutics for diseases like the coronavirus or COVID-19.

The study that got published in the journal Nature Immunology, stated that several viral infections cause the impairments of some components of the immune system like the T cells in a press called the immune 'Exhaustion'. As per the scientists from the University of Melbourne in Australia, this process has also been confirmed in the patients suffering from severe COVID-19.

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The researchers mentioned to overcome the exhaustion is a major aim for the development of new therapies for many viral infections. While previous studies had shown that during severe infections, the T cells had lost their function slowly and over long time periods, the latest study found that they can be impaired within just a few days. In the study, the researchers also found several new mediators of the immune exhaustion that might be targeted in new therapies.

"This is an exciting finding, particularly in the context of COVID-19 as one of the big questions is why some people get severely sick, while others experience mild disease," the study co-author Daniel Utzschneider from the University of Melbourne said as reported by the Financial Express.

"We looked at both mild and overwhelming Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus infections in mice, which serves as a model for severe viral infections in humans, early after onset of disease, and identified striking differences at the molecular and functional level," he added.

Response of T Cells

The researchers showed that while responding to the infections that are difficult to eliminate, the T cells down-regulate their functions within days. They also mentioned that the T cells while responding to a weaker infection remained highly functional.

"These findings are extremely exciting. Our data show that T cells could be manipulated during early stages of severe viral infection to improve their activity," Axel Kallies, another co-author of the study mentioned.

The novel virus outbreak has created a major stir around the world in recent times infecting more than 23.6 million people globally and claimed the lives of over 813,000 people worldwide in more than 170 countries.