T-cells offer adequate coronavirus protection, study suggests

High levels of T-lymphocytes, or T-cells, could provide adequate protection against the novel coronavirus, a new study suggests. 

T-cells are part of our immune system, which responds to a foreign invader such as a virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They are different from antibodies and are thought to provide immunity against the coronavirus for a longer period of time.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that older study participants had lower levels of SARS-CoV-2 responsive T-cells, a finding that could help explain why older people are more at risk for the novel virus. (iStock)

In a study of 3,000 people, researchers with Oxford Immunotec and Public Health England (PHE) found that none of the study participants “with a high T-cell response” developed a symptomatic case of COVID-19 when researchers checked in with them, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, “confirmed infections” were reported in 20 study participants who had a low T-cell response. 

Interestingly, the researchers also found that older study participants had lower levels of SARS-CoV-2 responsive T-cells, a finding that could help explain why older people are more at risk for the novel virus. 

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Though the study is pre-print and has not yet been peer-reviewed, the findings suggest that “individuals with higher numbers of T-cells recognizing SARS-CoV-2 may have some level of protection from COVID-19, although more research is required to confirm this,” David Wyllie, Consultant Microbiologist at Public Health England, said, according to Reuters. 

The findings come after a separate study out of Singapore in August found that T-cells in some people may have the ability to recognize COVID-19 despite it being a new virus. 

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The findings of that study suggest that exposure to types of coronaviruses in the past can produce “memory T-cells” in some people’s blood, possibly helping them to fight off the novel coronavirus. The researchers of the small study published in Nature noted at the time that these T-cells may help in the development of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Fox News’ Amy McGorry contributed to this report.