Researchers have found that T cells present in human bodies can provide possible immunity against COVID-19. Research conducted at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has revealed that T-cells, or the white blood cells that originate in the bone marrow, can act as a second line of defence against the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The study's proceedings have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Viruses.
As per The Guardian, the co-leader of the research, who is from the University of Melbourne, Matthew McKay, said, "Even if Omicron, or some other variant for that matter, can potentially escape antibodies, a robust T-cell response can still be expected to offer protection and help to prevent significant illnes."
The research sheds light on how T-cells can provide in the fight against the new mutants of COVID-19. "Based on our data, we anticipate that T-cell responses elicited by vaccines and boosters, for example, will continue to help protect against Omicron, as observed for other variants. We believe this presents some positive news in the global fight against Omicron," he added. During the research, the Australian researchers studied fragments of COVID viral proteins known as epitopes. The samples were taken from patients who were vaccinated against COVID-19 or infected with the virus.
Co-researcher Ahmed Abdul Qadeer said that epitopes that showed signs of COVID mutation were predicted to be visible to T-cells. This finding further increases the chance that Omicron cannot escape from T-cells' defences. However, the researchers noted that T-cells alone cannot block infection or prevent transmission, but they can provide immunity to some extent against severe diseases. Dr Stuart Turville, from the University of New South Wales' Kirby Institute, said T-cells proved a "good backup" in the immune response and that it is multifactorial as both T-cells and B-cells create a memory of the virus that infects the body. " At the beginning, what gives them that memory is the primary encounter. If you’re lucky, it’s a vaccination; if you’re unlucky, it’s the first time you’ve been infected," he added.