Reprinted from the Financial Review article by Jill Margo 3/17/20, which mentions article in Nature Medicine. See link below.
Australian researchers have shown how a healthy person’s immune system can fight off the new coronavirus and help the body recover, finding strong similarities with how we fight the flu. Their work increases global understanding of what drives recovery from COVID-19 and could be used to highlight what is missing from the system of people who do not recover.
It could also provide important intelligence in the international effort to develop an effective vaccine.
The researchers at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity mapped immune responses in an otherwise healthy woman in her 40s who was one of the first patients diagnosed with corona virus in Australia.
She had been in Wuhan and felt lethargic with mild to moderate symptoms, including a fever, a sore throat and a dry cough. Four blood samples were taken before and after her recovery in hospital.
The researchers, who were able to identify the antibodies recruited by her body to fight the illness, published their findings on Tuesday in the journal Nature Medicine.
It is the first time that broad immune responses to COVID-19 have been reported, said research fellow Dr Oanh Nguyen, one of the authors.
“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,” Dr Nguyen said.
World-leading influenza immunology researcher Professor Katherine Kedzierska said that even though COVID-19 was caused by a new virus, a robust immune response across different cell types in an otherwise healthy person was associated with clinical recovery similar to that seen with influenza.
“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,” said Professor Kedzierska, of Melbourne University and the Doherty Institute.
The research was possible because of a “research preparedness platform” that allows teams to get straight to work on new diseases without having to go through long and laborious ethics approval processes.
The platform enables a broad range of biological sampling to be done as soon as travelers return with new or unexpected infections. Current estimates show more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases are mild to moderate. Understanding their responses and why some worsen is vital.