In a study from Linköping University, scientists found the immune cells of patients who received hospital care for COVID-19 early in the pandemic were still affected six months later.
The team suggests that infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus leaves strong effects long after the patient is symptom-free.
Severe COVID-19 infection has long-lasting negative effects on the immune system.
Several types of cells are important when the immune system starts to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Some white blood cells, B cells, form antibodies that recognize and bind to particular parts of the virus, while several types of T cells help to kill infected cells.
In the current study, researchers looked at whether a severe COVID-19 infection has long-term effects on the body’s immune cells.
They looked at 46 patients with COVID-19 who had received care, and 31 healthy control subjects.
The researchers analyzed blood samples taken from the patients when admitted to the hospital, and taken 2 weeks, 6 weeks and 6-8 months later.
They not only looked at the properties of the virus-specific T cells but also examined whether the disease had had a general effect on all T cells.
The team found the effects on the T cells of the immune system interesting and mixed. Some of them are still activated long after the disease episode, while others are ‘fatigued’ and cannot function normally.
The researchers see similar effects on patients with a chronic HIV infection.
The team suggests that all the patients in the study developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The levels of these antibodies started to fall after six months.
For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and results showing scientists find inexpensive, readily available drug that may treat COVID-19.
The study was conducted by Francis Hopkins et al and published in Frontiers in Immunology.
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