Scientists have found that immune cells called T-cells are found in very small numbers in individuals whose disease has been most severe. These cells are a type of immune cells that protect the body from pathogens and cancer cells.
This clinical trial will examine whether a drug called interleukin 7 increases the number of T cells and help patients’ recover. The research study includes scientists at Francis Kirk Institute, Kings College London, and at researchers at the St Thomas Hospital.
Experts examined the blood samples of 60 Covid-19 patients and found a significant drop in the number of T cells.
Professor Adrian Ha Day, of the Francis Kirk Institute, said it was ‘overwhelmingly awkward’ to see what was happening to immune cells.
‘These cells are trying to protect us, but the virus is doing something like pulling the carpet from under their feet, because they’ve dropped dramatically in numbers, said Adrian.
In healthy adults, one micro-liter of blood contains 2000 to 4000 T cells, also known as T-lymphocyte. This number in the tested patients was as low as 200-1200.
Researchers have called the test extremely encouraging and hope that the ‘fingerprint test’ allow them to timely identify the infection and also asses the severity.
The researchers also highlighted the possibility of a new treatment may strengthen the patient’s immune system.
In this trial, it will be given to patients who have low T-cells numbers and who have spent more than three days in intensive care.
Dr Manu Shankar says: ‘We hope that [when we increase the number of these cells] the viral infection will clear out of the body. ‘
He said that as an intensive care doctor they see patients who are seriously ill and have no direct treatment against this disease except for treatment that alleviates symptoms. So the clinical trial of any such treatment is a very encouraging sign for intensive care doctors across the UK.”
This research has also provided insight into the specific ways in which this disease interacts with the immune system, which Prof Hayday says will be vital as scientists around the world look for clinically valuable information.
“The virus that has caused this completely Earth-changing emergency is unique – it’s different. It is something unprecedented.”
“The exact reason for this disruption – the spanner in the works of the T-cell system – is not at all clear to us.
“This virus is really doing something distinct and future research – which we will start immediately – needs to find out the mechanism by which this virus is having these effects.”