When the COVID-19 pandemic began, medical researchers and scientists were put to the test when it came to finding a solution that kept the spread and the rate of serious illness down as much as possible. The first choice for doing so was developing an effective vaccine that could be given to as many people as possible in the hopes that it would prevent the long-term spread and infection rates. Now that the vaccines have been rolled out, there is a bit more breathing room to develop other forms of testing and management techniques when it comes to COVID-19.
One such testing route that has been making headlines recently is T-cell testing. T-cell testing can be used to help track and evaluate how well vaccines are working, as well as immunity rates across populations that have been most heavily affected. It could also be used to determine just how long a vaccine will be effective for. But what is T-cell testing, exactly? And how is it going to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
What is T-cell testing?
T-cells are made by the immune system with a specific purpose. They are created to attack particular foreign particles as opposed to anything that the body deems a threat. These immune cells have the ability to circulate throughout the body until they find the antigen they were created to neutralize. When it comes to COVID-19, T-cells may just be the answer to long-lasting immunity that researchers have been looking for.
Currently, the antibodies that are being created from COVID vaccination are doing the job, but they may become less effective over time. Essentially, researchers are hoping that T-cells can pick up the slack when antibodies are no longer able to protect the body for COVID-19.
To help test the body for specific COVID-19 T-cells, Infectolab has designed a test that is based on the stimulation of antigen specific T-cells in vitro. This can allow researchers to see how many antigen-specific T-cells are in the body.
How do T-cells help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
The spread of COVID-19 has continued since it began in 2020, and it may be difficult to curb it altogether. The virus continues to change and mutate, developing into new variants that come with different characteristics when it comes to deadliness and transmission. By looking at the T-cells created within the body to COVID-19, researchers can begin to understand just how well immunity towards the virus is working.
Since T-cells do not prevent infection, they are not the secret to full immunity; however, they are needed to help clear an infection. If a person becomes infected with COVID-19 and has adequate levels of COVID-fighting T-cells, the likelihood of that person experiencing a serious and long-lasting infection is slimmer. T-cells can also reduce the spread or transmission of the virus by keeping it confined to a smaller area within an infected person’s body, which makes it more difficult for the virus particles to make their way outside of their infected host and into the community.
How to test for T-cell immunity
Testing for T-cell immunity hasn’t been done throughout the entire pandemic. It was recently introduced as a way to help detect how the virus is affecting the body and how the T-cell response can work to help keep the spread down. While the test is not used to identify whether someone is infected with the virus now, it can help to determine if a previous infection has occurred. It is designed to complement the already-used antibody tests that can determine the same thing. The standard antibody test is helpful; however, it does not gather the full picture of the immune response that takes place when a person contracts COVID-19.
The test itself uses a person’s blood to determine the number of T-cells circulating throughout their bloodstream. In some studies surrounding the testing of antigen-specific T-cells, results found that three months following a vaccine, the specific T-cells they were looking for were in fact present within the blood. This positive discovery gives the impression that a long-term cellular memory response is possible after people become vaccinated.
Can I get a T-cell test for COVID?
Although you cannot walk into your doctor’s office and get a T-cell test on the spot, there are ways to check your T-cell levels for COVID-19. Infectolab has developed a novel T-cell test that offers people the ability to check their own levels, giving them a better idea of how well protected they are against the virus. The test has a modest turnaround time of roughly three to four days and provides a comprehensive report that can help to ease any concerns a person may have surrounding their risk for severe infection, as well as help guide treatment for those who are infected with the virus.
Having a T-cell test for COVID-19 can go a long way in helping the global population determine how safe they are from the virus, how well immunity and vaccines are working, and whether or not the spread of the infection can be truly slowed by natural immunity.