Image courtesy of Max Pixel.
Scientists realized a few months ago that the body’s immune response to SARS-CoV-2 can be complex and unusual. Now, researchers at the University of Hong Kong have figured out how the virus seems to affect the immune system. By investigating 41 recovering and acute patients, they found that different immune cells respond in very different ways. Dendritic cells, which circulate in the peripheral lymph, greatly reduced in number and were impaired. T-cells also showed a decrease in numbers, delayed response in the receptor binding domain and a change in the concentration among its different subtypes. Lastly, scientists discovered a “timely inverted” response, where antibody levels rose early on and then levelled off, while T-cell levels did the opposite. These results shed light on how the coronavirus attacks the body. They will also help researchers around the world develop a vaccine tailored to the virus-specific immune response and inform future treatment of patients.