Science

How coronavirus vaccines would work in the body

The virus is enveloped in lipids and covered in protein spikes, which give it a crown-like appearance. Covid-19, like all viruses, has evolved to sneak past our bodies’ defence system and hijack our cells for its own benefit. The protein spikes allow it to attach to our cells and invade, when inside it can produce more copies of itself using our cell machinery before hitching a ride on cough droplets to infect another host.  

Fortunately, our immune system detects such intruders and amounts a response. Infected cells display distress signals made from small fragments of viral peptides on their cell surface. Cytotoxic T- immune cells recognise this display of peptides and initiate the destruction of those infected cells.  The body then uses the viral fragments to start the production of antibodies, which stop the attachment of the virus to target cells. These antibodies are then stored in our immune system’s memory, so if we encounter the virus again, we are prepared to destroy it. Therefore, a healthy individual is able to combat the infection and gain immunity.  The design of vaccines against Covid-19 involves creating antibodies and memory immune cells to introduce to individuals. However, the best defence is to not let the virus enter the body by practicing hand washing and taking government advice of staying at home.

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21/04/2020

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Lucy Burrows