Antibodies Are Not The Only Defence Against Omicron Variant

Antibodies Are Not The Only Defence Against Omicron Variant

Antibodies are trained to recognise the spike protein on the coronavirus’s surface, preventing it from penetrating cells and infecting the host.


Antibodies Are Not The Only Defence Against Omicron Variant

Antibodies have taken centre stage in the battle against the coronavirus.

These Y-shaped proteins have made headlines lately because Covid-19 vaccines do not create nearly as many effective against the highly mutated Omicron variant as previous ones did — at least not without a booster.

Antibodies are trained to recognise the spike protein on the coronavirus’s surface, preventing it from penetrating cells and infecting the host.

While antibodies are commended, they are far from the only game in town.

In fact, “there’s a complex and coordinated response that is really beautiful from an evolutionary standpoint," said Harvard immunologist Roger Shapiro.

Here are some key points:

The Innate Immune System’s ‘Carpet Bombers’

Within minutes or hours after the virus’s first contact, signalling proteins send out alerts to enlist the tough but dim brutes of the “innate" immune system.

The first to arrive on the scene is “neutrophils," which account for between 50% and 70% of all white cells and are fast to fight but also quick to die.

Others include voracious “macrophages" that snarf down infections and spit out critical pieces of information to aid their more intelligent colleagues in training, the menacingly titled “Natural Killer" cells, and “dendritic" cells that transmit signals to more elite fighters.

Source - Nevy Health

It’s sort of like carpet bombing the whole area and hopefully, you damage the invader as much as possible… at the same time calling into the headquarters to get your SEAL units ready to go," said John Wherry an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

B And T Cells: Spies And Trained Assassins

The “adaptive" immune system kicks in if the invaders do not flee.

After a few days of infection, “B cells" recognise the danger and begin producing antibodies.

Vaccination also primes and prepares B lymphocytes, mostly in lymph nodes in our armpits, near the injection site.

Shapiro compared them to intelligence operators who had critical knowledge about potential dangers.

The most strong antibodies, called “neutralising," act similarly to chewing gum on the sharp end of a key, preventing it from opening a door.

Other, less well-known antibodies are less sticky than neutralising antibodies. Still, it aids in grabbing hold of the virus, pulling it toward immune cells or signalling for assistance, and intensifying the total response.

The primary companions of B cells are “T cells," which may be generally classified as “helpers" or “killers."

Killers are like assassins, and they go and attack the cells that have been infected," — but these assassins also cause collateral harm in the name of the greater good, according to Shapiro.

The helper T cells, Shapiro said, “are like generals," marshalling soldiers, stimulating B cells to produce more, and guiding their deadly counterparts toward the enemy.

Putting An End To Serious Illness

Due to the Omicron variant’s extensively altered spike protein may be more quickly neutralised by antibodies provided by earlier infection or vaccination.

The bad news is that this increases people’s susceptibility to symptomatic infection. However, there is some good news: T cells are not nearly as easily misled.

According to Wherry, T cells have a “periscope" into infected cells, through which they may search for the virus’s parts throughout its reproduction cycle.

They are far more adept at spotting tell-tale indicators of previous encounters with enemies, even if their cunning disguises fool antibodies.

The killer T cells conduct search-and-destroy missions, poking holes in infected cells, bursting them apart, and initiating responses that mobilise inflammatory substances known as “cytokines."

Vaccinated individuals who have a breakthrough infection may experience mild, cold-like symptoms or moderate, flu-like symptoms — but the risk of developing a severe disease is much decreased.

None of this diminishes the argument for booster doses, which significantly increase antibody production across the board and seem to further train B and T cells.

Omicron is concerning, but the glass is still half-full — it’s not totally going to evade our responses," Wherry said.

Source – AFP

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