While research seeks to answer the burning questions of science, it’s findings often lead to more questions. Scientists from the Medical University of Vienna described how COVID-19 left changes in the immune systems of patients 10 weeks later and therefore left a question for future research: “so what?” The numbers of different immune cells including neutrophils, cytotoxic CD8 T cells, Tregs, and plasma cells appeared lower in those who had contracted the virus versus those who had never had the infection. As their lives continued, would these changes be a good thing or a bad thing?
Of course, an infection will leave some type of change on a person’s immune system for some period of time. The article references past research on other viruses like EBV which showed various changes in immune cells after the infection. Most of these occurrences seemed to last no longer than days to a few weeks before the immune system settled into old patterns.
In this study, there appeared changes 10 weeks after infection. The changes were in a variety of immune cells. Both CD4 and CD8 memory cells were higher. T regulatory cells were lower, B cells and plasmablast levels were elevated. Neutrophil counts were lower on average.
The questions then arise whether these changes are good or bad. They presumed that high numbers of memory cells would indicate protection against repeat infection. On the other hand, lower neutrophil counts might hinder responses to other infections while lower T regulatory cells might contribute to increased autoimmunity down the road. Of course, they are wondering how long these changes might last overall.
Beyond the simple questions noted above, one should ask what effects a vaccine for this virus might have on our immune systems. Will an artificial response to a vaccine lower neutrophils and T regulatory cells? Will repeated doses of the vaccines many claim we will need yearly lead to reduced immunity in other ways? Helping other live healthier more abundant lives with functional medicine requires thinking through the downstream consequences of our therapeutic interventions. Short term benefits must be weighed against long term consequences. We need to understand COVID-19 better before rushing headlong into a vaccine.
Bernhard Kratzer, Doris Trapin, Paul Ettel, Ulrike Körmoczi, Arno Rottal, Friedrich Tuppy, Melanie Feichter, Pia Gattinger, Kristina Borochova, Yulia Dorofeeva, Inna Tulaeva, Milena Weber, Katharina Grabmeier‐Pfistershammer, Peter Tauber, Marika Gerdov, Bernhard Mühl, Thomas Perkmann, Ingrid Fae, Sabine Wenda, Harald Führer, Rainer Henning, Rudolf Valenta, Winfried F. Pickl. Immunological imprint of COVID‐19 on human peripheral blood leukocyte populations. Allergy, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/all.14647
Thanks to Science Daily
Medical University of Vienna. “Seven different ‘disease forms’ identified in mild COVID-19: Study provides new information for a better understanding of the disease — and potential biomarkers for vaccine development.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 November 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201102110019.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.