What is cell-mediated immunity against Covid-19 and how to test for it

by Kyriakos Yiannoukas*

Immunity against viruses, and in our case, against SARS-CoV-2 which is responsible for Covid-19, can be described in simple words as the human body’s capacity to defend against infectious factors, and hence avoid the manifestation of a disease. Immunity is achieved either by being infected with the virus or via vaccination.

More specifically, cell-mediated immunity is the activation of a specific group of immune cells (or immunocytes), the T-lymphocytes, which can be found in blood years after the manifestation of the disease, thus playing a major part in the “long-term memory of our organism” and in the defense against future reinfections. According to many studies, cell-mediated immunity is triggered faster than the production of antibodies. Therefore, even if someone was infected with or got vaccinated against Covid-19 and their body did not produce antibodies or they were produced later, that individual is already defended via the immunocytes.

Who can benefit from T-cell immunity test?

Testing for cell-mediated immunity is for anyone who wishes to have a better knowledge of their immune response after being infected with or vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. At the same time, the test is for those who wish to check potential past and asymptomatic infection with the virus.

At this point, separation of antibodies – and their levels in the body- from cell-mediated immunity is important. As they are two different defense mechanisms of the human body, which in many cases, either do not coexist or appear at different times. For most healthy adults, these two defense mechanisms appear at the same time, though, at different level and duration. However, more and more studies prove that antibodies are either produced late or not at all, therefore, antibodies testing may show false results during potential infection. Nevertheless, cell-mediated immunity is already active. It goes without saying that its capacity differs from one individual to another. This is the reason why T-cell immunity testing is the main tool there is, for a patient to check their exact defense level at the time of the examination.

How is the T-cell immunity test carried out?

The test must take place after 14 days of the manifestation of the disease, in cases of infection with Covid-19, and at least 20 days after the completion of the vaccination schedule, as our organism needs some time to develop its immune response.

The T-cell immunity test introduced for the first time in Cyprus by the BIOATRIKI Healthcare Group, uses the internationally recognized T-SPOT technology that ensures highly reliable results. To perform the test a simple blood sample is required, and the results are available after 5 working days, as they are subject to special processing.

In fact, we can say that checking the cell-mediated immunity, is one of the main weapons that modern science provides us. In other words, cell-mediated immunity not only does protect the human body along with antibodies, but also its duration is often much longer than the antibodies’ retention rate.

*CEO of Yiannoukas Medical Laboratories, BIOIATRIKI Healthcare Group in Cyprus