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Clinical study aims to better understand COVID-19 immunity

Researchers are investigating the immunity effects of the coronavirus to help inform decisions on vaccine development and public measures to control the virus and are seeking participants. The COVID PROFILE study, led by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, will use blood samples of people who had the virus and their close contacts who didn’t…

Researchers are investigating the immunity effects of the coronavirus to help inform decisions on vaccine development and public measures to control the virus and are seeking participants.

The COVID PROFILE study, led by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, will use blood samples of people who had the virus and their close contacts who didn’t contract the infection to see how people are protected from COVID-19 and how long for.

Led by Melbourne researchers, the study looks to recruit 300 adults to be followed for 12 months after their exposure to the virus by having regular blood samples as well as nose and throat swabs.

Lead researcher Professor Ivo Mueller said uncertainty remained in the scientific community about whether people could be reinfected with COVID-19 or how long immunity offered protection against the virus.

He said it was possible a second infection could be worse than the first, if immunity withered.

“While we know their immune response protects people after they recover from COVID-19, we suspect this protection wanes over time and reinfection of COVID-19 may be possible,” Professor Mueller said.

“We don’t know how long this immunity lasts and whether it differs between people who have had severe, mild or asymptomatic infections,” he said.

“If we can predict the way immunity to the virus develops over time, whether and when people can be reinfected, and whether symptoms are less severe upon reinfection, we will be able to plan accordingly and stay ahead of the virus.”

Study investigator Dr Vanessa Bryant said the research was crucial to help understand the wide range of symptoms experienced by people with the virus.

“Some people get severely ill and require hospitalisation, while others are almost completely asymptomatic. Understanding why this happens will help us identify ‘biomarkers’ that could be used to predict which people may be at higher risk of contracting the virus or developing the most severe symptoms,” she said.

“This will enable us to find new treatments that can help strengthen patients’ immune systems to help them recover faster.”

The study is being conducted in collaboration with the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Melbourne and the Doherty Institute.

It is funded by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the World Health Organisation’s UNITY study and philanthropic supporters.

If you wish to participate, visit the COVID PROFILE page.

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.