Protected from Covid even without antibodies: the “hidden” strength of T lymphocytes

Protected from Covid even without antibodies: the “hidden” strength of T lymphocytes


OfHealth editorial team

New study conducted on experimental models by researchers at the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital in Milan: the protection also extends to new variants of SARS-CoV-2

THE T lymphocytesimmune defenses induced by previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 or by vaccination, are sufficient to protect people from Covid even without the mediation of the “more classic” antibodies and recognize the new variations of the virus.

This was shown by a new study carried out at the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, published today in the scientific journal Nature Immunology. “The results of our study change the traditional understanding of immunity and demonstrate the importance of including the immune response mediated by T lymphocytes in monitoring responses to vaccinations and in the development strategies of new vaccines,” underlines Professor Matteo Iannaconedirector of the Division of Immunology, Transplants and Infectious Diseases of the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital and professor of General Pathology at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, coordinator of the research.

What are T lymphocytes

The T cells are a component of the immune system as they are antibodies. They constitute the “first line” of defense which manages the attack of viruses and their task is to “tell” other cell populations, the B cells, to act as antibodies.
There are many types of T cells, usually some of them solve the problem of external viruses by killing the infected cell. T cells recognize different pieces of the virus than “classic” antibodies (which we measure with serological tests) and are just as critical to memory of the infection, they may even be a better indicator than antibodies, because some studies have shown how about twice as many people have developed T cell immunity compared to those whose “classic” antibodies we are able to detect with serological tests.

Protected for a long time

«We have observed how a certain subgroup of T lymphocytes, called CD8+, are crucial in combating serious infections, while the so-called CD4+ T lymphocytes play a complementary role in milder infections, with a significant role played by interferon-gamma (IFN-γ )», declares the doctor Valeria Fumagalli, researcher and first author of the study. «The indication for vaccination remains the fundamental element for protecting the population from serious disease, and our research demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach also for protection against reinfections caused by viral variants», underlines and concludes Iannacone.

March 14, 2024

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