One of the biggest questions among the COVID-19 pandemic has been why the virus kills some people and leaves others without any detectable symptoms. Now, six months into the pandemic, we are finally getting some answers. According to Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), if you are someone who is known to get the common cold year after year, you can have protection against the new coronavirus, thanks to the T cells in your immune system.
“If you see it [your immune system] metaphorically as an army with different levels of defense, antibodies prevent the virus from entering. So this is kind of like the first line of defense, “Fauci told McClatchy in a recent interview.” “For those viruses that escape and infect some cells, T cells get inside and kill the cells that are infected or block them.”
Fauci said much of the research on COVID has been “focusing too much exclusively on the antibody test”, but, he said, T cells are an “equally important component of the immune system”.
RELATED: For more up-to-date information, subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Because COVID-19 is a new coronavirus, it was initially believed that your T cells would not be able to detect it. It was assumed that T cells would only be found in people who had COVID-19. But a new NIAID study published in the journal science on August 4 suggests that up to 50 percent of people who are not exposed to the coronavirus have the T cells needed to fight the virus. Similarly, a German study published in the journal nature in late July he looked at 68 healthy people who had not yet been exposed to the coronavirus. Among them, 35 percent had T cells in their blood needed to attack the new coronavirus.
As a result of this new study, experts believe that healthy individuals may have generated these T cells when fighting similar coronavirus-related infections in the past, such as the common cold. And the earlier an individual became infected with another type of coronavirus, the greater the chances that they will have protection against COVID-19, Fauci told McClatchy.
“It’s sort of like a one-two punch,” he said. “It ‘s conceivable that the T cells you’re responding to a few years ago – three, four, five years ago – when you were exposed to a relatively benign coronavirus that causes the common cold, may actually hang, and “When you are exposed to SARS-Coronavirus-2, there may be some protection,” he said.
Serving as a secondary line of defense in the immune system after antibodies have failed or faded, T cells also last much longer than antibodies. So, if you have read those startling reports that antibodies do not last – like a July study from the UK that found that COVID antibodies dropped just three weeks after the onset of infection – do not worry. These reports ignore the role of T cells, according to Fauci and other experts, which is just as important.
Amesh Adalja, MD, senior researcher at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Safety, told CNN that existing T cells can also help us understand why COVID affects people differently.
“If you could compare people perhaps with severe and mild disease and try to look at T cells in those individuals and say, ‘Are there people who have severe disease less likely to have reactive T cells cross versus “People who have mild disease may have more cross-reactive T cells? ‘I think there is biological credibility to that hypothesis,'” he said. “Although it is clear that the presence of T cells does not stop people from becoming infected, but does it modulate the severity of the infection? This is what seems to be the case.” And for more on that, see This is why COVID kills some people and others are asymptomatic, the study says.
Gallery: 23 Shocking Signs of COVID-19 You Didn’t Know About (Best Life)
23 Shocking signs of COVID-19 You did not know about