A new effort is underway to understand how the immune system responds to the coronavirus.
Scientists at 17 UK research centers are trying to answer questions such as the duration of immunity and why the severity of the disease varies so much.
The new UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC) claims that learning immunity will help fight the virus.
It has received £ 6.5million from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Professor Mala Maini, viral immunologist at University College London, who heads one of the UK-CIC teams, said: “Our immune response to a virus is really what dictates how we react when we are infected, how sick we are when we have an acute infection, how long we are protected after infection and how well we might respond to a vaccine.
“The immune system is the basis of everything essential for the response to this virus.”
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Since the virus first appeared, scientists have been rushing to find out how our bodies respond to infection.
Professor Maini says that for mild to moderate cases of Covid-19, the immune response appears to be “classic”.
She explained, “All the right components of this complex immune system seem to work well together.”
More serious cases
But the consortium hopes to discover the role of the immune system in more severe cases.
He is also looking for answers on the duration of immunity. This week, researchers in Hong Kong reported the first documented case of reinfection.
Professor Paul Moss, UK-CIC senior researcher at the University of Birmingham, said: ‘This is the first case in millions, so we need to keep it in proportion.’
He said he was concerned that the immune response to the coronavirus appeared to wane over time.
But he said the fact that the man showed no symptoms during his second infection suggested the immune system may be effective in stopping the disease.
The consortium will also investigate whether some people have pre-existing immunity to the virus, even if they have never been exposed to it.
Several studies have shown that a previous encounter with some of the coronaviruses that cause the common cold allowed the immune system to recognize the new coronavirus.
Professor Moss said a key question was whether infection with other mild coronaviruses could prevent you from catching Covid-19 or make you sicker.
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