There are two ways for your body to deal with the virus that causes COVID-19. One is to keep away from it, so you don’t get infected. The other is when you do get infected, your immune system kicks into gear to get rid of the virus. Unfortunately, as this virus is brand new and has ways of hiding from the immune system, our immune responses may not be ideal for fighting the virus. In some cases, the virus can trigger an overwhelming immune response that itself results in illness.
What will ultimately keep this virus at bay in the long-term is if enough of us have antibodies to it in our immune system’s ‘memory’. We may get this from being exposed to the virus, but a big goal for medical science right now is to find effective treatments and to develop vaccines that ‘teach’ our bodies how to recognise the virus and make antibodies, without the need to be exposed to it. That’s why understanding how the immune system works is key to getting out of this pandemic.
Ireland has a wealth of scientific researchers who are contributing to our global understanding of the immune system and the response to COVID-19.