T Cells

Given its back catalogue, the Journal Science is long on credibility. It was the first to publish the entire human genome, studies tying AIDS to human immunodeficiency virus, and the earliest images of the Martian surface. Befitting, then, of a publication that was launched with the help of the great electric all-rounder, Thomas Edison. This week the Journal published a research paper on COVID, a cross collaboration from a range of respected institutions: from the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health At the University of California, to the Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases in Perth, Australia. Plus a few more. The title to hand was the slightly chewy ‘Selective and cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes in unexposed humans’. Indeed, you mutter: T Cells. Now, there has been an increasing weight of work suggesting that T Cells are a major player in the taming of COVID. T Cells are a type of white blood cell that go after foreign nasties. They kill infected host cells, bark orders at other immune operators and generally help keep us match fit. Months in, the Scientific community are getting their arms around COVID, and whilst many aspects of the human immune response are not known, the paper suggested that 20%, 30%, 40%, maybe 50% of people have some sort of T-cell memory that protects against the novel coronavirus. Basically the makeup of today’s COVID is not significantly different to previous sniffs and snivels. “Thus” the authors write having mapped 142 T cell epitopes across the SARS-CoV-2 genome, “variegated T Cell memory to coronaviruses that cause the common cold may underlie at least some of the extensive heterogeneity observed in COVID-19 disease.” Given the power and sway of today’s media to influence the nation’s mood on the current COVID crisis, headlines that are typically motivated by having a pop at ham-fisted political elites, positive pieces in heavyweight Journals such as Science, can easily get missed. And this is positive, major league positive, in the context of chasing the virus out of town. Should the T-cell theory to be proved up, the implications will run deep across risk assets.