‘Killer’ cells in Ebola immunity study could help coronavirus research

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Updated 20 October 2020

‘Killer’ cells in Ebola immunity study could help coronavirus research

  • The findings offer hope that immunity to the virus does not need antibodies, which are known to decline within months of infection

Immunity from the deadly Ebola virus could last years after the infection, the world’s longest study of survivors by British and Guinean scientists has concluded, in findings that could have implications for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) immunity research.

The study assessed immune response in thousands of Ebola survivors from the outbreak in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

A separate study by King’s College London found that COVID-19 antibodies may, in some cases, last only two months, leading to concerns that immunity to the virus could be shortlived, and survivors vulnerable to rapid reinfection. 

The Guinean and British scientists, working from their base in Guinea, found that some Ebola survivors showed no antibodies three months after infection, despite their bodies needing to mount a strong response to fight the virus.

The scientists discovered that, without antibodies, many ebola survivors had the capacity to fight off reinfection with backup “killer” T cells and B cells.

T cells are a type of white blood cell that triggers the body’s immune response. B cells memorize the body’s attack plan against specific pathogens, and rapidly secrete antibodies when reactivated, according to the study’s findings, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

The tests currently being used on COVID-19 survivors only measure antibodies, not T and B cells.

The report’s lead author, Miles Carroll, deputy director of the national infection service at Public Health England, said: “Just because antibodies cannot be detected, does not necessarily mean that someone has not acquired immunity from their infection.”


Academic freed in Iran ‘blown away’ by support

Updated 01 December 2020

Academic freed in Iran ‘blown away’ by support

SYDNEY: An Australian-British academic released after two years imprisoned in Iran on spying charges said she thanked supporters from the “bottom of my heart” Tuesday, saying they helped her through a “never-ending, unrelenting nightmare.”
In her first statement since arriving back in Australia, Middle East scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert said she was “totally blown away” by efforts from friends and family to secure her release.
“I honestly have no words to express the depth of my gratitude and how touched I am,” the 33-year-old said.
“It gave me so much hope and strength to endure what had seemed like a never-ending, unrelenting nightmare. My freedom truly is your victory. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!“
Moore-Gilbert was released last week in a swap for three Iranians linked to a botched plot to kill Israeli officials in Bangkok.
She was arrested by Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2018, after attending an academic conference in the holy city of Qom in central Iran.
She was later charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in jail, allegations she has denied.
arb/mtp