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New COVID-19 Test Shows Patients with Suppressed Immune Systems Can Also Achieve Good Immune Response to SARS-CoV-2

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 31 Aug 2020
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A new test that provides information on the immune response to the novel coronavirus in patients who need to take immunosuppressive drugs has shown that these patients can achieve a good immune response to SARS-CoV-2 despite immunosuppression.

A research team from the University Hospital at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB Bochum, Germany) has developed the test which can be used to adapt immunosuppressive therapy individually during a COVID-19 infection, such as following an organ transplantation. The test is of great clinical relevance for transplant patients as it provides information that goes far beyond a pure antibody test.

Transplant patients are affected in several ways: in addition to the chronic illness that led to organ failure and subsequent transplantation, transplant patients need to take medications that suppress the defenses of their own immune system. Chronically ill patients with impaired immune defenses have an increased risk of suffering from a severe COVID-19 infection. It was previously unknown whether patients could develop a sufficient reaction against the new coronavirus under the influence of immunosuppressive drugs.

With the help of the test, the team demonstrated that transplant patients are very capable of achieving a good immune response despite immunosuppression. In addition to high antibody titres, large quantities of T lymphocytes, which are responsible for killing infected cells, were found in the current case study.

“Until now, it has not been known whether our transplant patients are capable of forming a sufficient immune response to the new coronavirus,” said Professor Timm Westhoff, Director of Medical Clinic I at Marien Hospital Herne, who led the team of researchers. “The data obtained help us to deal with immunosuppression during the current pandemic. The test allows us to individually adjust immunosuppression when a patient is suffering from COVID-19.”

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