“Considering T cells’ central role of response against viral infections, especially in the early stage when antibodies are not boosted yet, we took the T cells as our focal point.”
Results of the experiment
522 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and 40 other healthy volunteers, aged between 5 days and 97 years of old, were examined at two hospitals in Wuhan, China between December 2019 and January 2020.
Of the 499 patients who had their lymphocytes recorded, 76% had significantly low total T cell counts. ICU patients had significantly lower T cell counts compared with non-ICU cases, and patients over the age of 60 had the lowest number of T cells. The T cells that did survive could not function at full capacity, leaving patients more susceptible to secondary infection.
Chen says that future research should focus on finding finer subpopulations of T cells in order to discover their vulnerability and effect in disease, along with identifying drugs that recover T cell numbers and boost function.