MedUni Vienna: Analysis of natural immunity following coronavirus infection

The Medical University of Vienna is currently conducting a study to analyse the immune response in individuals who have had a coronavirus infection. The results will help to understand the immune response and lay the foundations for a vaccine. People who have already recovered from Covid-19 can take part in the study.

"The study is far-sighted, since it should help us understand whether – and if so, how many – people develop protective immunity following an infection. It is hoped that the results of the study will provide a solid basis for developing a vaccine," says Rudolf Valenta from MedUni Vienna's Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, "we have to accept that the virus is now among us, just like influenza, and might cause repeated waves of infection."

The project is looking at everything but the development of a "Quick test". The researchers intend to put the entire viral proteome, and also small parts thereof, onto a chip by micro-spotting, enabling them to obtain a very detailed picture of the immune response. They will then measure the antibody response to all viral components and their epitopes.

New test to check the effect of antibodies

The researchers at the Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology are also developing a test that allows them to investigate whether the antibodies prevent the virus from docking onto the host cells and they also plan to investigate the cellular immune response.

"Analysis will be very complex and we will not be able to tell the volunteers immediately whether they are immune or not. However, once the study is complete, hopefully before the next Covid season, which we fear will come, we will be able to say in general whether people who have already had the disease have developed a protective immunity to it, and what proportion of them have done so.

Knowledge needed for vaccine development

The detection pattern of patient antibodies that prevent virus-receptor interaction shows which parts of the virus need to be incorporated in a vaccine to invoke a targeted response against them by means of vaccination. "We have learnt from using immunotherapy to treat allergies that the antibody response can be accurately instructed by means of vaccination," explains Valenta. A technology developed at MedUni Vienna in collaboration with the firm Viravaxx is being used for this.

Looking for participants

We are looking for people aged 14 and over who have had a Covid-19 infection confirmed by a positive Covid-19 RT-PCR test and are now about 10 weeks into recovery. Volunteers are also needed for the control group. They must not have had Covid-19, nor must they have had a cold within the last 10 weeks. Samples will take the form of a blood sample and a nasal swab.

Anyone who would like to take part in the study should register their interest by emailing: rudolf.valenta@meduniwien.ac.at or winfried.pickl@meduniwien.ac.at.

MedUni Vienna research projects relating to SARS-CoV-2

In more than 100 COVID-related research projects, employees of MedUni Vienna are working with great commitment and creativity to help find solutions to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control: from simulations, data analyses, epidemiological studies, biomedical basic research, genetics and medical technology through to clinical trials and outcome research, all of MedUni Vienna's main areas of research are involved. Our researchers are committed – via national and international networks, to use their knowledge and skills for the benefit of society and the good of our patients.

Here is an up-to-date list of projects. www.meduniwien.ac.at/research-covid19

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