Scientists in the UK are set to test a treatment that could counter the impact of COVID-19 in the most critically ill patients.
It has been discovered that the people most impacted by the virus have critically low numbers of T-Cell, an immune cell that helps clear infection from the body. The clinical trial will monitor and investigate if the drug interleukin 7, which enhances T-cell numbers, can help the patients’ recovery. The experts conducting the study are from the Francis Crick Institute, King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital.
They have studied the immune cells of 60 people infected by the coronavirus, and discovered a decrease in the numbers of T-cells in the patients. Crick’s Institute, Prof Adrian Hayday said it was a “great surprise” to see what was occurring with the immune cells. He said:
They’re trying to protect us, but the virus seems to be doing something that’s pulling the rug from under them, because their numbers have declined dramatically.
In an average healthy adult, there are 2,000-4,000 T-Cells, also known as T-lymphocytes, in a microlitre (0.001ml) of blood. The team found that in COVID-19 patients it was between 200-1,200.
The experts have said these findings could help create a test and help determine early on which person will have a more severe reaction and also provides the chance of reversing the decline in immune cells.
A critical care consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, Manu Shankar-Hari confirmed that when patients start to recover, their lymphocyte levels also starts to go back up.
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