It has almost been a year now since the COVID-19 outbreak started in China’s Wuhan city. The novel coronavirus has so far infected over 43 million people and caused more than one million deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) data.
There is still no cure of this deadly virus, however, there are various treatments and vaccines that are currently under trial. Out of which, the plasma therapy has gained much attention as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
Recently, a study funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has concluded that there is not much evidence that plasma therapy helps in reducing mortality or progression to a severe case of COVID-19.
Responding to this findings, the Indian government announced that it was considering to remove plasma therapy from the national guidelines for COVID-19 treatment.
Meanwhile, researchers from the US have proposed T-cell therapy, saying that it is a safer and more effective option for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infection.
Researchers at the Children’s National Hospital, USA, believe that T-cells from recovering COVID-19 patients may help to reduce disease risk in immunocompromised patients or people with a weakened/impaired immune system, as these patients have a reduced ability to fight infections and other diseases.
What Are T-Cells?
T-cells are a type of white blood cell which are also called T lymphocytes. The play an important role in fighting intracellular pathogens like viruses. According to the previous studies, COVID-19 patients can develop strong T-cell-based immunity, which stays for a longer time than antibodies in the bloodstream.
In the case of plasma therapy, COVID-19 specific antibodies from the blood of recovered patients are transferred to the high-risk patients to build up a strong immune system to fight the infection or reduce the severity of the symptoms.
According to US-based researchers, T-cell immunotherapy can also be used to manage and prevent COVID-19, especially in immunocompromised patients.
They stated that T-cells help this high-risk group of people to develop a strong immune response before they are exposed to the virus and can prevent them from getting severe COVID-19.
T-Cell Therapy For COVID-19 Prevention Or Treatment
The new study suggested that T-cell therapy could be a viable option for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
This hypothesis is based on the evidence that was obtained from the phase 1 clinical trials conducted at the Children’s National Hospital on the effectiveness of T cells in targeting Epstein Barr virus (EBV), the causative agent of mononucleosis.
T-cell therapy was found to be safe against a variety of viruses. The scientists collected the COVID-19 specific T cells from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients at the Children’s National Hospital and multiplied them inside the lab.
When tested on SARS-CoV-2, they found that these T cells cross-reacted with various variants of the novel coronavirus.
The result suggested that they are effective against multiple strains of the virus and the findings of the study are published in the peer-reviewed journal Blood.
COVID-19 vaccines may be unsafe for immunocompromised patients because their immune system may not be able to fight even a weaker version of the disease-causing agent. Hence, a vaccine may do more harm than good for such patients.