Interviewer: Dr. Nina Le Bert,
thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with us today.
To discuss the nature of SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells in COVID-19 patients,
versus those found in healthy volunteers that have never gotten COVID-19.
Let me jump right in and ask you if you could provide us
with some more background to the research you conducted,
and what specific immunological processes
were you initially trying to investigate in this research?
Dr. Le Bert: In our lab we have always been interested in T-cells.
That's why, in our labs, for many years we have been studying hepatitis B virus specific T-cells.
In antiviral immunity, not only antibodies exist.
T-cells particularly important in viral disease,
because they are recognizing infected cells.
Because the virus is going inside the cell,
and shielding itself from antibody recognition.
And only the T-cells can recognize and then later
lyse cells that have been infected with a virus.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic started and reached here in Singapore,
it was normal for us to start studying SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells.
Because we know that T-cells are often playing an essential role in viral control.
When we started our work,
we were initially asking to what we think important questions.
Are SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells induced in COVID-19 recovered patients,
in people who recovered from the disease?
Second question, I think even maybe more important.
Are SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells persisting for a long time?
The second question isn't trivial because it's a new virus.