An extensive study will investigate the immune system's response to COVID-19

23 Sep 2020


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The study focuses on COVID-19 and will be carried out in the next 18 months, was publicly announced on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. The study will be conducted by the Health Insurance Company of the Ministry of the Interior and the QualityLab Laboratory Association, and guaranteed by prof. MUDr. Vojtech Thon, Ph.D. from the RECETOX research centre (Masaryk University Faculty of Science) . Participants’ blood (serum) will be tested for the presence of COVID-19 viral antibodies to determine if and for how long their immune systems protect them against the virus.

Beyond determining the presence of antibodies, the study aims to serve as a guide for selecting the most suitable vaccine and determining the best candidates for vaccination has the ambition to serve as a guide to the selection of the appropriate vaccine and the very needs of its vaccination.

Overall, the study will involve up to 30,000 participants. Three blood samples will be taken from each participant and tested in a specialized laboratory. Since the study is organized by the Health Insurance Company of the Ministry of the Interior, only participants who are insured by it can apply for financial support (https://www.qualitylab.cz/protilatkycovid19/), which will cover most of the related costs. Nonetheless, anyone can join the study, regardless of health insurance; however, they will not be reimbursed for the costs.

Guarantor of the study prof. MUDr. Vojtěch Thon, PhD. (Photo: Deník/Attila Racek)

The immunologist and expert guarantor of the study, prof. MUDr. Vojtěch Thon, Ph.D. provided further details on the importance of the study, stating that “the statistical data obtained from confirmed cases and deaths help to monitor the rate of disease spread but are inadequate for estimating the actual infection levels in the population, as patients who are asymptomatic or experience a mild course have are not tested, which results in an underestimation of the actual number of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Consequently, further studies are essential for estimating the size of the population that has already developed antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and are potentially immune from further infection."

Various factors influence how the disease develops and manifests, such as preexisting medical conditions, age, bodyweight, and the viral load to which the body is exposed. “It is not unusual for patients to be asymptomatic and, as such, go unnoticed. The only way to confirm that a patient has been infected with the virus and has developed sufficient antibodies that will protect them against further infection is by testing to determine their presence in the body," says Professor Thon.

Researchers will be particularly interested in the body's immune response during an active infection. "As part of the body’s anti-virus protection, cellular immunity first develops, which then helps the immune system produce antibodies, which can then be captured using an appropriate immunological laboratory test. In our unique study, we can also prospectively evaluate the dynamics of their development over time. This applies not only to an acquired infection but also to evaluating the post-vaccination immune response.”explains Professor Thon.

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