Story at a glance
- Researchers have come up with a new way to test for COVID-19 immunity, a blood test that checks for a person’s T-cell response to the virus.
- T-cells, which are produced to fight off viruses, can stay present in the body much longer than antibodies, making them a better long-term indicator of immunity.
- The test could help researchers better understand who is likely to get a breakthrough COVID-19 case.
Researchers have developed a new type of blood test to check for potential COVID-19 immunity.
How the test works is explained in a study published this week in Nature Biotechnology.
When a virus enters by either infection or through vaccination the body does two things, the first is create antibodies, as part of humoral immunity, and the second is to activate a type of white blood cell called T-cells that work to stop a virus from getting “too serious” once it has entered a cell, according to Ernesto Guccione, professor of oncological sciences and pharmacological sciences at the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai, one of the lead authors of the study.
“Even if [someone] gets infected, as long as there is a robust secondary immunity, these people will clear the virus within a few days or a week and then go on to live their lives,” said Guccione.
Unlike antibodies, which can leave the body after an infection, T-cells can stay present in the body for years, making them a better long-term indication of immunity.
The test, called dqTACT, requires the mixture of a small blood sample with peptides, essentially a chain of proteins, from the COVID-19 virus. Once the mixture takes place, researchers then check after 24 hours to see if there is a T-cell response.
Researchers believe the test could help better anticipate a person’s risk of getting a breakthrough infection and the frequency to which an immunocompromised person should be vaccinated against the virus.
Researchers are in the process of implementing the test in larger clinical trials over the next several months ahead of applying for approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Guccione told Changing America.
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