Scientists in Australia have mapped immune responses from one of the country’s first coronavirus patients to show how the human body fights and recovers from COVID-19.
The University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital released a statement that they joined forces to test blood samples at four different time points in an otherwise healthy woman in her 40’s, who presented with COVID-19 and had mild-to-moderate symptoms requiring hospital admission.
Scientists were able to use data from prior patients with influenza to inform their research.
“We looked at the whole breadth of the immune response in this patient using the knowledge we have built over many years of looking at immune responses in patients hospitalized with influenza,” said Dr. Oanh Nguyen in the statement. “Three days after the patient was admitted, we saw large populations of several immune cells, which are often a tell-tale sign of recovery during seasonal influenza infection, so we predicted that the patient would recover in three days, which is what happened.”
Researchers were able to harness SETREP-ID (Sentinel Travellers and Research Preparedness for Emerging Infectious Disease), a biological sampling program for returned travelers designed in response to outbreaks of new infectious diseases.
Working together with University of Melbourne Professor Katherine Kedzierska, a laboratory head at the Doherty Institute and a world-leading influenza immunology researcher, the team were able to dissect the immune response leading to successful recovery from COVID-19, which might be the secret to finding an effective vaccine.
“We showed that even though COVID-19 is caused by a new virus, in an otherwise healthy person, a robust immune response across different cell types was associated with clinical recovery, similar to what we see in influenza,” Professor Kedzierska said.
“This is an incredible step forward in understanding what drives recovery of COVID-19. People can use our methods to understand the immune responses in larger COVID-19 cohorts, and also understand what’s lacking in those who have fatal outcomes.”
Infectious Diseases Physician Dr. Irani Thevarajan said that current estimates show more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases are mild-to-moderate, and understanding the immune response in these mild cases is very important research. The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people but can be severe in some cases, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
They are currently hoping to expand their work nationally and internationally to understand why some people die from COVID-19 and build further knowledge to assist in the rapid response.