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COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 can attack immune cells

NIAID / NIH

The novel coronavirus is capable of infecting and killing immune cells, say researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) in Ribeirão Preto. This finding may partially explain two common occurrences in infected people: lymphopenia, which is a decrease in the number of lymphocytes, and the low viral concentration in the blood. In tests of the immune cells of healthy people, a group led by virologist Eurico Arruda observed that SARS-CoV-2 invades and multiplies inside monocytes and lymphocytes. In CD4 T lymphocytes, which coordinate the immune response, and CD8 T lymphocytes, which recognize and eliminate cells infected by viruses, the coronavirus triggered programmed cell death (apoptosis). “This could be an explanation for the cases of lymphopenia,” Arruda told Agência FAPESP. In the blood of people with COVID-19, the group found the virus inside B lymphocytes (image), which produce antibodies (bioRxiv, August 7).

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