BioResource participants, immune system and COVID

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the NIHR BioResource has been recruiting people who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 to the COVID-19 cohort of the NIHR BioResource.

The research, by Scientists at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was published on 18 January without being peer reviewed because of the urgent need to share information about the pandemic.   Samples were analysed from COVID-19 patients with a range of severity of disease.  The samples were taken regularly over three months following the onset of symptoms and compared with samples from healthy controls.

Those who took part ranged from healthcare workers who tested positive on routine screening but had no symptoms, through to patients needing assisted ventilation and intensive care. The team measured symptoms as well as taking regular blood samples. The research has helped create better understanding of the relationship between the immune response and COVID-19 symptoms.

Key findings:

  • Individuals who are asymptomatic (no symptoms) or have mild disease show a robust immune response early on during infection.
  • Patients admitted to hospital have impaired immune responses and systemic inflammation (that is, chronic inflammation that may affect several organs) from the time that symptoms started.
  • Persistent abnormalities in immune cells and a change in the body’s inflammatory response may contribute to ‘long COVID’.

Professor Ken Smith, senior co-author and Director of the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology & Infectious Disease (CITIID), said: “The NIHR BioResource has allowed us to address two important questions regarding SARS-CoV-2. Firstly, how does the very early immune response in patients who recovered from disease with few or no symptoms, compare with those who experienced severe disease? And secondly, for those patients who experience severe disease, how rapidly does their immune system recover and how might this relate to ‘long COVID’?”

Professor John Bradley, Chief Investigator of the NIHR BioResource, said: “The NIHR BioResource is a unique resource made possible by the strong links that exist in the UK between doctors and scientists in the NHS and at our universities. It’s because of collaborations such as this that we have learnt so much in such a short time about SARS-CoV-2.”

The research was supported by CVC Capital Partners, the Evelyn Trust, UK Research & Innovation COVID Immunology Consortium, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, NIHR and Wellcome.

Full article:

Bergamaschi, L et al. 
Early immune pathology and persistent dysregulation characterise severe COVID-19. MedRXiV; 15 Jan 2021; DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.11.20248765