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Test for COVID-19 T cells immunity developed in the UK

Virus T cells

Biotech company Indoor Biotechnologies, co-founded by a Cardiff University alumnus, has developed a test for coronavirus T cells which can potentially provide longer-term immunity to the virus than antibodies.

The company’s trials found some people who had coronavirus but tested negative for antibodies went on to test positive for T cells – meaning more people may have some immunity than previously thought – and for longer. Hundreds of people who tested positive for coronavirus in the past have been tested – with a focus on healthcare workers – to check whether they had developed T cells. The company has also tested people who have never had coronavirus, to ensure its accuracy.

Results within 24 hours

Currently only a handful of laboratories across the world are equipped to test for T cells, and it is a “laborious” process with a lot of complex machinery, but this test has “stripped back everything to the bare bones” so the test can be performed by any lab with a single vial of blood, with results within 24 hours, states the company to Cardiff University.

“The aim is to develop a T cell test that can be easily used by labs across the world, enabling mass testing of COVID-19 T cell immunity to be performed,” says Dr Martin Scurr, a post-doctorate researcher in Cardiff’s School of Medicine, who is working with Indoor Biotechnologies on the test.

The test may also be valuable during vaccine development to help identify whether an adequate immune response has been generated to protect people from COVID-19, and for testing how long that immune response remains.

The company has received almost £50,000 in funding from Innovate UK, a research scheme supported by the UK Government.

Photo: iStock

Image caption: T cells play a key role in the development of long-term immunity to coronavirus. Helper T cells stimulate B cells and other immune cells, whereas killer T cells target and destroy infected cells.