Capacity-building in the UK over the past decade has provided the expertise to make detailed analyses of how the human immune system responds in real time to challenges. Until now, most such analysis has been conducted on persons receiving vaccines, but COVID-19 provided an almost unprecedented opportunity to study how we respond to a real-life infection.
By examining over 100 hospital-treated COVID-19 patients and controls, we identified a consensus immune signature that contains some patient-beneficial immunoprotective responses but some highly abnormal features that probably contribute to disease. Our goals now are:
- To investigate whether age is a contributory factor to the perturbed immune response, thereby explaining, at least in part, the age association with disease severity.
- To ask how COVID-19 impacts on the immune systems of cancer patients that should ordinarily be directed toward cancer eradication.
- To ask whether different types of white blood cell, e.g. so-called gamma delta T cells, may provide protection against the virus, particularly in asymptomatic infection.