Covid-19 immunity and immunopathology – testing and mechanisms
Gitta Stockinger, Caetano Reis e Sousa, George Kassiotis, Adrian Hayday, Anne O’Garra, Samra Turajlic, Rupert Beale, Andreas Wack, Veni Papayannopoulos
How do we know who may need intensive care?
Some patients with COVID-19 suffer from overreactive immune responses. Our researchers are using their substantial expertise in inflammation research, tissue repair and virology, to study why some people can’t get rid of the infection after a few days and why some people enter a type of ‘immune shock’ where inflammatory cells cause the body to shut down.
The Crick, King’s College London and Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust have built a high-throughput platform, looking at patient’s blood over time to see how our immune system responds to coronavirus, and if there are clues to whether someone might need additional treatment.
The team has previously run large studies monitoring how people’s immune systems respond to flu vaccines, and have developed new methods for tracking patients’ immune response. In the new platform, they are identifying so-called ‘immune response markers’ that differentiate patients according to their disease severity.
The results have led to a collaborative study with public health statisticians, to investigate if those ‘markers’ offer an improved way for doctors to predict which patients are likely to need intensive care and to get them the treatment they need faster.
The team’s approaches are also being used to test whether COVID-19 vaccines are effective in cancer patients. Find out more about the COVID-IP project.
What are the threats from the new SARS-CoV-2 variants?
The Crick is investigating the degree of cross-reaction and cross-protection between the new variants, and also between common cold coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2. We are specifically investigating if immunity, induced by infection or vaccination with the original strain, can protect against new variants. Currently, we are focussing on the new variants that emerged in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
We are also preparing for further mutations and new variants of SARS-CoV-2 that may not respond to the current vaccines, or for future zoonotic (spread between animals and people) introductions of novel coronaviruses.
We are testing a vaccine in preclinical models that trains the immune system to recognise all coronaviruses and variants thereof - a pan-coronavirus vaccine. This is based on our earlier discovery that some antibodies, created during infection with common colds, can also target SARS-CoV-2.
Find out more about the national research project to study the effects of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.