Dr. Jennifer Juno says the study focused on patients with mild forms of COVID-19 who have since recovered, with the goal of finding out how they developed a successful immune response.
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“Our goal is to try to mimic this type of immune response with a vaccine,” she told Global News via video link from Australia.
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“We wanted to study people who weren’t seriously ill so that we could understand how the immune system recognizes different parts of the coronavirus, but without some of those confounding factors that happen if you get really sick or people are hospitalized.”
Researchers have discovered a range of immune responses, said Juno, who received his doctorate from the University of Manitoba before moving to Australia in 2016 to do postdoctoral research at the University of Melbourne.
“But it’s interesting that we were able to identify a particular type of immune cell that seemed to be associated with these higher and stronger immune responses,” she explains.
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“We hope we can use this information to better understand how we can take advantage of these cells and to assess whether better vaccine candidates are able to induce this type of response and better protect those vaccinated. ”
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A statement from the University’s Doherty Institute, where Juno and the team scientists did their research, says the advanced protein that attaches the virus to human cells is the target of most current human clinical trials. on the COVID-19 vaccine.
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Juno and the team hope their research can be applied to these trials.
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“We now know how the immune system responds to the peak protein,” she said in the statement.
“And we have these biomarkers, or predictors of what triggers a good or bad immune response to COVID-19. We can look at vaccine candidates and see what will provide the best protection. “
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As to when a vaccine might be approved, Juno has yet to give a concrete answer.
But she told Global News she was “excited and optimistic” about information from clinical trials that she says will be released to the public in the coming months.
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“There are currently a number of different vaccine candidates that have entered phase two or phase three clinical trials,” she said, noting that an Australian vaccine had started human trials this week.
“I think we’re going to start getting a lot more data in the next few days that will give us a better idea of the type of immunity that we can actually induce from these different vaccines.”
– With files from Gabrielle Marchand
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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you should know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or the flu. Some people can develop a more serious illness. Those most at risk are the elderly and people with serious chronic illnesses such as heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend washing your hands frequently and coughing up your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying at home as much as possible, and maintaining a two-meter distance from others if you go out. In situations where you cannot keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a face mask or non-medical coating to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, face masks or covers are now required in indoor public spaces.
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