Immune System T-Cells Can Fight Off Omicron

WEDNESDAY, January 5, 2022 — While the Omicron variant appears smart enough to evade people’s antibodies, researchers report that it must have a more difficult time bypassing a person’s T cells.

“Although it is a preliminary study, we believe this is positive news. Even if Omicron, or any other variant for that matter, could escape an antibody, a robust T-cell response could still be expected to provide protection and help prevent infection. critically ill said Matthew McKay, co-leader of the study, of the University of Melbourne in Australia.

The barbed protein enables the virus to attach and enter human cells. Current vaccines neutralize antibodies to try to prevent this, but preliminary research suggests that this is less effective against Omicron, which has developed several spike protein mutations.

The researchers analyzed more than 1,500 fragments of SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins called epitopes, which were recognized by T cells in recovered or post-vaccated COVID-19 patients.

They found that only 20% of virus epitopes from the spike showed omicron-associated mutations. However, the researchers note that this small number of mutations does not mean that the virus can evade T cells in the body.

Study co-leader Ahmed Abdul Qadeer, associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Science and Technology (HKUST) for Electronics and Computer Engineering, said.

“This further reduces the chance of omicron escaping from T-cell defences,” Kedir said in a Hong Kong press release.

The news was also positive when the research team analyzed other viral proteins. They found that more than 97% of non-spiky T-cell epitopes did not have omicron-associated mutations.

“Overall, these results suggest that widespread escape of T cells is highly unlikely,” McKay said. “Based on our data, we expect that T-cell responses elicited by vaccines and boosters, for example, will continue to help protect against omicron, as observed in other variables.”

The results, published Jan. 2 in the journal Viruses, adding to a growing body of evidence suggesting that it is unlikely that Omicron is able to evade T cells.


  • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Press Release, 3 January 2022

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