T-cells being targeted by researchers for future COVID-19 vaccines

This research could lead to creation of a vaccine for all coronaviruses in the future.

On Wednesday, British researchers announced the discovery of proteins in the coronavirus that are recognized by T-cells of people who are exposed to the virus but do not become infected, potentially giving a new target for vaccine developers. While there is evidence of declining antibody levels six months after vaccination, T-cells may also play an important role in protecting against COVID-19. According to the researchers, the next generation of vaccines should try to elicit an immune response against specific proteins that are required for the viral cycle's early phases. The discovery, which was published in the Nature journal could lead to the development of a vaccine for all coronaviruses. This would guard against not only COVID-19 and its variations, but also common cold-causing coronaviruses and newly developing animal coronaviruses.

During the first wave of the pandemic, researchers from University College London (UCL) investigated 731 health workers in two London hospitals and discovered that many had not tested positive despite potential exposure to the original coronavirus. They discovered that even while some of the workers did not produce antibodies or test positive on PCR tests, they had a substantial and widespread T-cell response after probable exposure. This shows that, instead of the workers avoiding any exposure to the coronavirus, the T-cells removed the virus before any symptoms or positive test results appeared, resulting in an "abortive infection," according to researchers. Adding that, "What's very interesting is that the T-cells found in these people, where the virus didn't generate a successful infection, preferentially target different parts of the virus than those seen after infection."