October 6, 2023

New study shows how initial exposure influences immune responses to COVID-19 variants

Editor's Note

A new study suggests that someone's initial exposure to a specific COVID-19 variant shows some influence to their immune response to subsequent variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, the University of Cambridge October 6 reports. The research, published by Science on October 6 and titled "Mapping SARS-CoV-2 antigenic relationships and serological responses," was conducted by a collaboration of 10 research institutes, including the University of Cambridge.

The researchers analyzed 207 serum samples from individuals who had been either naturally infected with various SARS-CoV-2 variants or vaccinated with different doses of the Moderna vaccine. The results showed significant variations in immune responses, depending on which variant individuals encountered first.  A person's immune system focused on specific regions of the virus based on their initial exposure. This discovery has significant implications for vaccine development and the ongoing battle against the virus, was noted in the article.

The study's 'antigenic map' also revealed that the Omicron variants were notably different from previous variants, which may explain why many individuals still became infected with Omicron despite vaccination or previous exposure to other variants.

The findings show the importance of continued surveillance efforts to detect emerging variants and understand variations in immunity across the population. The researchers noted that future vaccination responses should consider both the virus variant contained in the vaccine and the potential differences in someone's immune response. Dr Samuel Wilks, the study's first author, noted that some individuals might be more vulnerable to specific virus mutations due to their immune systems not recognizing the virus as effectively, potentially leading to illness.


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