QIMR Berghofer researchers have received a million dollar boost to further their understanding of COVID-19 immunology from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) as part of its Coronavirus Research Response.
Associate Professor Corey Smith, head of QIMR Berghofer’s Translational and Human Immunology Group, is leading the COVID-19 Immunity study, examining how the immune systems of those who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 responded to the virus and is collaborating with research teams from The University of Queensland, Monash University, Mater Research and Queensland Health.
A key area of their research is discovering how the human immune system fights the disease, so they can develop drug treatments to help very sick patients, with the end goal of developing a new T cell immunotherapy. Associate Professor Smith said control of viruses in humans is dependent on B cells that produce antibodies to recognise and neutralise virus particles, and T cells that recognise and remove virally infected cells.
“Currently, we do not know how long immune cells live for in individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. This must be determined in order to assess the risk of reinfection and identify which part of the population may benefit from vaccine boosters if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available,” Associate Professor Smith said.
“Our next step will be to correlate these responses with antibody responses and start to investigate the impact age and co-morbidities have on the quality of the response and how well they are maintained over time,” Dr Smith said
“We hope this insight will be important for our understanding of what goes wrong in patients who develop severe complications and to determine which cohorts of people could remain at risk.of infection despite previous exposure.”
Associate Professor Smith said the team hoped to recruit more participants in Brisbane and Melbourne, to boost the data on immune responses in recovered patients.