New study of COVID-19 patient’s immune response could inform future treatment

A new study published in science journal Nature Medicine (via Bloomberg) examines the case of a patient who contracted COVID-19 in Wuhan and fell ill in Melbourne, Australia could provide a more comprehensive view of how and why certain people react to the virus more seriously than others.

The patient’s case was described as a “mild-to-moderate” case, and while she was hospitalized, she was only treated with intravenous fluids to counter dehydration and didn’t receive any other drugs, nor did she require being put on a ventilator. Accordingly, her case was one of the less severe that required hospitalization, providing an opportunity for scientists to study in detail her body’s mostly positive immune response to the novel coronavirus.

Researchers from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity received the patient’s permission to participate in their research, along with a number of other subjects, and were able to collect blood samples that showed how her immune responses performed, and when they activated. The research showed that the patient started developing antibodies in the patient’s blood before her symptoms fully disappeared, and that they remained present at least seven days after the infection went away.

While this case alone won’t provide any definitive information without additional study and examination of other patients, it’s a promising step towards evaluating how healthcare professionals treating COVID-19 patients might be able to discover earlier which patients will end up with more severe symptoms, and which will develop milder cases. They could also inform the development of new medical interventions to ultimately reduce case severity, or help develop vaccines with maximum efficacy.

This research could also help us better understand how post-illness immunity works for COVID-19. With other coronaviruses, like the common cold and the flu, immunization is temporary, which is why we have a seasonal flu shot, for instance. We don’t yet know in great detail how immunity works for recovered COVID-19 patients, and this research could provide more insight into that.