Researchers from the University of Birmingham have shown that T cell immunity is coping with mutations that have increased within COVID-19 variants. Researchers tested CD4+ T cells at the beginning of the pandemic and found that a few of the T cells were able to recognize the epitopes in the Omicron variant. As SARS-CoV-2 continues to mutate, T-cell recognition of epitopes could decrease, causing a decline in the overall protection of the immune system. Although most people have a diversified T-cell response against the virus, some are less effective against Omicron specifically.

Vaccines developed at the beginning of the pandemic help to provide strong protection against severe hospitalization and death. But COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 continue to mutate. These mutations alter the epitope, which the virus uses to enter. It helps the virus to dodge the immune system’s attack. Current vaccines help the creation of antibodies and immune cells that recognize the protein. 

Vials containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine sit on a table in preparation for vaccinations at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 4, 2021. As part of the DoD strategy for prioritizing, distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine, those providing direct medical care and emergency services will be prioritized to receive the vaccine at units based in Japan, including Kadena AB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte)

One thing we have learned thus far in AP Biology class is that T Helper Cells stimulate other T cells to divide and create two types of cells. T Memory Cells are long-lived cells to prevent reinfection, and T Killer Cells or Cytotoxic T Cells kill infected or cancerous cells. 

It is very interesting for us to be able to understand how vaccines work to help us. Current mRNA vaccines produce some T cells that recognize multiple variants. This may help to protect against severe disease with the Omicron variant. Hopefully, with continued research, they will be able to make another vaccine that can specifically enhance this T-cell response. 

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