Kalisz professor makes major breakthrough in battle against COVID-19

Professor Katherine Kedzierska at the University of Melbourne has found that our immune system responds to coronavirus in the same way it does when trying to fight the flu. University of Melbourne

An Australian team led by a Polish professor have discovered how our bodies are fighting against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

The scientists from the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne published their findings in ‘Nature Medicine’, hoping it will quicken the work on developing a vaccine and curing patients suffering from coronavirus. 

The vast majority of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, especially young people and those without chronic diseases, can easily cope with the infection and recover without the need for specialized care. 

The study co-authored by Professor Katherine Kedzierska, the Head of Doherty Institute’s Human T cell Laboratory in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, focused on identifying four immune system cells which are responsible for its response to the coronavirus. 

The study focused on identifying four immune system cells which are responsible for its response to the coronavirus.University of Melbourne

The Australian team proved that our bodies deal with it similarly to how they fight the common flu. 

In an interview with the BBC professor Kedzierska Said: "This [discovery] is important because it is the first time where we are really understanding how our immune system fights novel coronavirus." 

According to the findings published in ‘Nature Medicine’, the researchers analysed the case of: “a 47-year-old woman from Wuhan, Hubei province, China, presented to an emergency department in Melbourne, Australia. 

Her symptoms commenced 4 days earlier with lethargy, sore throat, dry cough, pleuritic chest pain, mild dyspnea, and subjective fevers.” 

Professor Kedzierska's team (L) Dr Carolien Van de Sandt and Dr Irani Thevarajan (M), carefully analyzed a patient’s immune response, examining her around the clock for four weeks.University of Melbourne

Although the patient travelled from Wuhan to Australia 11 days before she was admitted, she had no contact with the Huanan seafood market, which is the source of the COVID-19pandemic. 

Professor Kedzierska's team carefully analyzed the woman's immune response, examining her around the clock for four weeks. Three days before the patient's condition began to improve, specific cells appeared in her blood, just as they would in case of patients with the flu. The woman fully recovered in 14 days.

"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," said professor Kedzierska.

The team proved that our bodies deal with coronavirus similarly to how they fight the common flu. Public domain

Determining when the immune cells enter into action can help predict how the disease will develop. The discovery can also help speed up the creation of a vaccine and potential treatment for infected patients.

Concluding their findings, the researchers wrote: “Collectively, our study provides novel contributions to the understanding of the breadth and kinetics of immune responses during a non-severe case of COVID-19. 

This patient did not experience complications of respiratory failure or acute respiratory distress syndrome, did not require supplemental oxygenation, and was discharged within a week of hospitalization, consistent with non-severe but symptomatic disease.”

Prof Kedzierska who is originally from Kalisz said that the discovery can help speed up the creation of a vaccine and potential treatment for infected patients.University of Melbourne

In January, the Doherty Institute was the first in the world to reproduce the SARS-CoV-2virus outside China. Since then, the centre has received additional funding from the Australian government, as well as donations from companies and the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Now the scientists at the Doherty Institute will try to figure out why the immunity against the coronavirus is lower in the case of some patients and even leads to their deaths.

Professor Kedzierska comes from Kalisz in central Poland. At 19 years old she emigrated to Australia. In 2002, she received her Ph.D. from Monash University in Melbourne, focusing on immunity to HIV infection and the mechanisms of disease pathogenicity. Since then, her principal area of expertise is viral immunology. 

The Polish professor’s principal area of expertise is viral immunology. University of Melbourne

In 2007, professor Kedzierska was awarded the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Wright Fellowship and a grant funding to establish her own research team.

For her work, professor Kedzierska received several awards and distinctions, including the 2011 NHMRC Excellence Award and the Scopus Young Researcher of the Year Award, as well as the 2016 Australian Academy of Science Jacques Miller Medal for Experimental Medicine. 

The Polish-born researcher is an Adjunct Professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, China and a Co-Director of the Sino-Australia Joint Research Laboratory for the Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Disease Research, Fudan-Melbourne University, located at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre.

The full research can be read HERE.