I’ve warned before not to believe one single publication until it is confirmed by others, but this study looks solid enough, and there’s another that partially confirms it.
One of the things that has worried me most about SARS-CoV-2 is that it may not provoke robust immunity. That would leave us all vulnerable to it forever, and it would be impossible to stamp out. These studies suggest that a vaccine is possible, or at least that having had COVID-19 confers immunity. There’s no data about how long that immunity lasts, though.
Science magazine has a readable summary of the research. I’ll summarize the findings.
- Helper T cells, part of our immune system, recognize SARS-CoV-2 proteins and react to them, including the important spike protein that attaches to cells so that the virus can infect them.
- The T cell response is strong enough to suggest a vaccine is possible.
- In the second study, T cells from people who have not had COVID-19 responded to virus proteins. This may be because other coronaviruses, which cause colds, are similar enough to provoke the response.
You can bet that virologists working on vaccines are reading these papers, and the ones whose approach is immunization through viral proteins are feeling good about them. But it’s still a long way to a vaccine.