COVID-19. The immune system develops after infection with the Ómicron variant

oh The discovery was announced in a report by the Institute for Basic Science (IPS) in South Korea, and the research was published on the 12th in the scientific journal Science Immunology.

A team of researchers led by Prof. Shin Eui-Cheol from the Center for Viral Immunity at the Korea Virus Research Institute Center, which is part of IBS, said, “Memory T cells (T lymphocytes) formed after omicron infection respond to subsequent strains. Effects of the virus”.

According to scientists, after infection or vaccination, the body produces neutralizing antibodies and memory T cells against the virus. Neutralizing antibody prevents host cells from being infected by the virus and memory T cells, although they cannot prevent infection, rapidly seek out and destroy infected cells and prevent viral infection from progressing to serious disease.

Four years into the Covid-19 pandemic have not been enough to eradicate SARS-CoV-2, and new strains of the coronavirus continue to emerge. Despite extensive vaccination programs, infections are common, the report said.

Ómicron emerged at the end of 2021 and significantly increased the spread of the virus compared to earlier variants, “allowing it to become the dominant strain in 2022”.

Since then, Ómicron subtypes such as BA.1 and BA.2, BA.4/BA.5, BQ., XBB and, most recently, JN.1 have appeared.

The aim of the work just published was to “detect changes in the immune system (…) after infection post-vaccination” and the researchers focused on memory T cells formed after Ómicron infection. Studies on this variant have mainly focused on vaccine efficacy or neutralizing antibodies and research related to those cells is “relatively scarce”.

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In early 2022, the team selected patients who had recovered from infection with the BA.2 strain of Micron and examined their “memory T cells, particularly the ability to respond to other Ómicron types such as BA.2, BA. 4/BA/5. et al”.

To do this, the researchers isolated immune cells from the individual's peripheral blood and measured the antiviral activity of memory T cells in response to cytokines (proteins secreted by cells) and “spike proteins” (spikes on the surface of the virus). ) different variations.

“The results of the analysis showed that the memory T cells of those subjects had an enhanced response not only against the BA.2 subvariant, but also against Ómicron's BA.4 and BA.5.” With infection, patients' immune systems are strengthened to fight future strains of the same virus.

Scientists have discovered a specific part of a protein produced by the body in the process of developing immunity induced by mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines, and this is the main reason for the improvement seen in memory T cells.

According to the team, “These results show that it is unlikely that a person with Ómicron's disease will suffer from severe symptoms of Covid-19 due to future variants.”

“This finding provides us with new insights into the recent Covid era,” Jung Min-kyung, the study's lead researcher, was quoted as saying in the report.

He added, “In response to the continuous exposure to new variants, it is understandable that bodies are also adapting to fight future strains of viruses.”

Shin Yui-Seol thinks that “the new discovery could also be used in vaccine development,” saying, “By looking for common characteristics between the current dominant strain and new variants of the virus, there may be a greater chance of inducing T cell protection. Memory against subsequent variants.”

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On August 30, 2023, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended approval of a vaccine adapted to the XBB.1.5 subtype of the Ómicron strain of SARS-CoV-2.

The vaccine, known as Comirnaty Omicron XBB.1.5, has been used to prevent Covid-19 in adults and children from six months of age.

About two weeks ago, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) classified Ómicron's recombinant strains as variants of interest, warning of an increase in the prevalence and spread of Covid-19 in Europe.

Covid-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 that was identified in China in late 2019 and has spread rapidly around the world, taking on many variants and sub-variants, some infecting more than others.

The disease was classified as an epidemic on March 11, 2020, and as of May 2023, it is no longer considered an international public health emergency.

Also Read: What is 'Disease X'? Are there reasons for alarm? We spoke to experts

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