Exploring immune system responses to COVID-19

Exploring immune system responses to COVID-19

Patient on a ventilator

Here’s an update on Professor Ken Smith’s exciting programme looking at the different reactions of individuals’ immune system to COVID, funded by ET in spring 2020 (original article here).

Over the last six months, Professor Smith’s research group in the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease has continued to characterise the immune response to COVID-19, identifying differences in immune responses and how they relate to the severity of people’s symptoms. Working with samples and data from the National Institute of Health Research COVID Bioresource taken from over 200 patients, the research has shown that those that have asymptomatic or mild disease usually have an early and robust response to the virus, but no generalised inflammatory response that causes severe symptoms. Seriously ill patients, on the other hand, had a delayed immune response against the virus, and already had a generalised inflammatory response by the time they were admitted to hospital. Immune recovery in these cases is complex, with profound abnormalities persisting and continuing to evolve in some patients. If these late inflammatory changes and immune cell defects persist, they may contribute to the long-term effects of COVID-19, perhaps including aspects of ‘long COVID’.

The team is now following up COVID-19 patients over the longer term to study the neurological and mental health consequences. They want to understand impacts on the immune system over time and so improve treatment for ‘long COVID’ patients.

You can read more details on this project here: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/likelihood-of-severe-and-long-covid-may-be-established-very-early-on-following-infection

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