Scientists find body’s own ‘killer’ T-cells yield protection against omicron

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Omicron’s ability to evade vaccine immunity has health experts concerned. This combined with rapidly waning antibodies post-immunization has scientists wondering if we’ll ever be able to mount protection against the mutation. 

But while antibodies are critical in the immune defense against COVID-19, they only tell part of the story. 

According to a new study published in the latest issue of Viruses, when antibodies are no longer able to detect omicron – thereby allowing it to bypass vaccine and natural immunity – other cells are still able to recognize the infection. They are known as killer T-cells. These cells may be key in stopping omicron’s continuous replication.

“The good news is these T-cells are still getting signals to play their part in the immune response role,” Dr. Shaun Grannis, vice president of data and analytics at the Regenstrief Institute, told News 8. “What the T-cell does is it releases caustic material that actually breaks down the virus…and the tissue in the region where those T-cells are activated become a target for those T-cells.”

Grannis says it’s almost as if COVID-19 is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. The killer-T cells pick up on that trail and find the virus, which leads them to attack it. 

He does point out the researchers used a modeling method. However, findings do suggest even though omicron evades immunity, strong defense mechanisms–in the form of killer T-cells–are still at work actively fighting the mutation.