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How does the immune system clear COVID-19, and what goes wrong in long COVID?

The global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused millions of deaths and massive impacts to nearly every facet of our society.

While severe COVID-19 can be deadly or disabling, most patients who contract the virus have mild to moderate disease, often getting quite sick but not requiring hospitalization. Most studies of this emerging virus have focused on patients with severe disease; we still don’t understand much about the “normal” immune response to COVID-19 in those with mild disease.

Researcher at Allen Institute
Palak Genge, a research associate at the Allen Institute for Immunology, works with COVID-19 patient blood samples in the lab.

Our approach

Scientists at the Allen Institute for Immunology are partnering with teams at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center to deeply profile the immune response over time in those with mild or moderate COVID-19, in the hopes of understanding what a “successful” immune response to the virus looks like. They’re also working to define the molecular signatures of long COVID, a debilitating and chronic side effect of infection that affects 10 to 30% of COVID patients.

By profiling the immune system in patients with long COVID and those who have recovered from mild COVID, the scientists hope to uncover the immune dysregulation behind long COVID, including the excess inflammation that seems to persist in a subset of long COVID patients, and to identify new targets for much-needed treatments for this chronic disorder.

Science Programs at Allen Institute