Cross-reactions with other coronaviruses are not good, they are harmful


Serious courses due to immune memory?

It was previously believed that prior contact with other coronaviruses helps the immune defense against Sars-CoV-2, a research team from Kiel found the opposite. It also explains why younger people tend to have gentle slopes.

People who are not yet infected with the new coronavirus also have so-called “T memory cells”. Even though they recognize the virus, they are often overwhelmed. Difficult courses are the result.

In the course of life, the immune system’s memory stores how it effectively fights against which pathogen. If the body comes into contact with the same pathogen a second time, the immune memory can fall back on existing knowledge in order to fight it quickly and effectively.

Prof. Prof. Alexander Scheffold and Prof. Petra Bacher Institute for Immunology The University Hospital Kiel has examined to what extent previous contact with other coronaviruses promotes a mild course of Sars-CoV-2, ie a cross reaction can be supportive.

For this purpose, immune cells from the blood of previously uninfected people were examined. The finding: the older the person, the greater the repertoire of immune memory. Scheffold and Bacher therefore speak of the “immunological age”, which increases with actual age. “It seems to be more the case that in the course of life the repertoire of memory cells against many different pathogens grows and with it the chance that some of them also recognize Sars-CoV-2 by chance.”

However, there is a crucial catch: the storage cells can detect Sars-CoV-2, but cannot fight it effectively. A characteristic that unites people without prior infection and people with serious illness.

In many cases, they are also of an advanced immunological age, and therefore a greater likelihood that the immune system will return to these “incompetent” memory cells.

Prof. Prof. Petra Bacher, University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein

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