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Australian scientists: This is breakthrough, immune system fights coronavirus like influenza

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | March 18, 2020
Scientists in Australia say they have identified how the body's immune system fights the Covid-19 virus.
Prof Katherine Kedzierska
Australia   Prof Katherine Kedzierska
Their research, published in Nature Medicine journal yesterday, shows people are recovering from the new virus like they would from the flu.

Topics: Australia coronavirus

Determining which immune cells are appearing should also help with vaccine development, experts say.

Globally, authorities have confirmed more than 160,000 cases of the coronavirus and about 6,500 deaths.

"This is important because it is the first time where we are really understanding how our immune system fights novel coronavirus," said study coauthor Prof Katherine Kedzierska.

The research by Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity has been praised by other experts, with one calling it "a breakthrough".

Many people have recovered from Covid-19, meaning it was already known that the immune system can successfully fight the virus.

But for the first time, the research identified four types of immune cells which presented to fight Covid-19.

They were observed by tracking a patient who had a mild-to-moderate case of the virus and no previous health issues.

The 47-year-old woman from Wuhan, China, had presented to hospital in Australia. She recovered within 14 days.

Prof Kedzierska told the BBC her team had examined the "whole breadth of the immune response" in this patient.

Three days before the woman began to improve, specific cells were spotted in her bloodstream. In influenza patients, these same cells also appear around this time before recovery, Prof Kedzierska said.

"We were very excited about our results and the fact that we could actually capture the emergence of immune cells in the infected patient prior to clinical improvement," she told the BBC.

More than a dozen scientists worked around the clock for four weeks to deliver the analysis, she added.