Queenslanders needed to help find coronavirus treatment

Scientists are recruiting Queenslanders who have recovered from COVID-19 to take part in a study.

While many labs around the world are working on a vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19), the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QMIR) Berghofer is focused on  developing immunotherapies to treat critically ill coronavirus patients.

The researchers are recruiting Queenslanders who have recovered from COVID-19 to help them discover how the human immune system fights the disease and develop drug treatments to treat very sick patients.

As part of the research, recovered COVID-19 participants will provide a blood sample, enabling researchers to examine how those people’s immune systems responded to the virus, with the goal of developing a new T-cell immunotherapy.

T-cells play a critical role in fighting diseases and infection, however as we get older they become less effective.

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Head of Translational and Human Immunology Group Dr Corey Smith said patients who suffered mild COVID-19 symptoms likely had T-cells that respond well and fight this virus.

“We hope that understanding how these cells work in people with different degrees of the disease will ultimately help us develop immune monitoring strategies to determine which patients are more likely to get sick,” Dr Smith said.

“Imagine if we could take T-cells from donors who have recovered from COVID-19 and ‘turbocharge’ those T-cells in the laboratory to recognise and attack the virus. 

“This approach could help the sickest of patients fight and survive a COVID-19 infection which otherwise could have been fatal.”

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Dr Smith said QMIR Berghofer had a proven track record of developing immunotherapies.

“My colleague and collaborator Professor Rajiv Khanna has already successfully developed T-cell immunotherapies targeting viruses, including chronic viral infections in organ transplant recipients,” he said.

“Once we understand the immune responses to COVID-19, we hope to use Professor Khanna’s method to develop immunotherapies against it.”

Queenslanders who want to take part in the study and have tested positive to COVID-19, recovered and have been released from quarantine can sign up to the COVID-19 Immunity Study.