18 March 2020
Australian scientists have mapped the immune system’s response in a woman with COVID-19, identifying the type of immune cells mobilised to fight the infection.
The 47-year-old woman from Wuhan, China was hospitalised in Australia, where scientists monitored her immune response to the infection.
Her first symptoms were tiredness, sore throat, dry cough, chest pain and mild shortness of breath. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 on admission to hospital.
The scientists identified the specific types of immune cells emerging in her bloodstream 3 days before her symptoms improved. These are the same cells that appear in people recovering from influenza. She did not have severe symptoms and was discharged from hospital within a week.
Knowing which immune system cells emerge before recovery may help doctors predict where a patient is in the infection timeline and whether they are recovering. It also provides information that should be very useful in developing potential treatments or vaccines.
The challenge now is to also understand what is missing or failing in people who do not recover. Further research is needed on people with differing severity of COVID-19 to see if these types of immune system cells can be used to predict the outcome of the disease and so identify which patients might have more severe disease.