A new study has shown that the unsung arm of the immune system appears to offer protection against severe disease such as the omicron variant even when antibodies wane all of which explains the reason why the new wave of infections hasn’t led to an all-out hospitalization.
According to scientists, T-cells are the body’s defence against virus-infected cells and they are often strengthened by vaccines that can help the body defend itself against adversaries such as Omicron.
The study was carried out by Erasmus University in the Netherlands and also the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
The new findings further explain why the wave of Omicron variant hasn’t caused an all-out surge in hospitalization or mortality in affected regions such as South Africa, the US, and the UK.
Compared to antibodies, T-Cells are able to target the whole virus’ spike protein which remains largely similar even in the highly mutated omicron variant.
To carry out their researches, the Dutch researchers went through 60 vaccinated health care workers and then found that while their antibody responses to Omicron were lower or even nonexistent unlike the case of the Beta or Delta variants.
T-Cells often respond unaltered while also balancing the lack of neutralising antibodies in order to prevent or limit the severity of COVID-19, says the report.
On the other hand, the study from the University of Cape Town’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine went through patients who had recovered from COVID-19 or who have been vaccinated with vaccine doses from either Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer-BioNTech.
From there, they found out that about 70% to 80% of the T-Cell responses the assessed held up against Omicron.
However, recent evidence has it that the new strain can erode vaccine protection which has prompted governments to push for booster shots in order to raise the level of antibodies that are able to fend off the omicron variant.
Immune protection is layered while antibodies help to block infections. T-Cells, on the other hand, kill off infected cells which then prevents the virus from spreading and causing disease in the body, says Wendy Burgen who is one of the University of Cape Town study authors, in a Twitter post.
“They can’t prevent you from getting infected, but they can minimize the damage that comes afterward,” she said.
Another great advantage of T-Cells often referred to as the White Blood cells are their ability to remember past diseases, kill virus-infected cells, and rouse antibodies to create defenses.
People infected with another coronavirus that was responsible for the Sars outbreak in 2003, for example, were found to still have a T-cell response to the disease 17 years later.