Infection research including Covid-19
The immune system is on constant alert to protect us from an almost limitless array of infectious organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, molds, and parasites). Normally this is well orchestrated, so the pathogen is cleared and the immune system returns to a stable state. However, in some cases, the pathogen exceeds the ability of the immune system to control it and in others, the response to the pathogen is dysregulated and overly robust, leading to sepsis, cytokine storm, or persistent autoimmunity or inflammatory disease.
SARS-CoV-2 and “long COVID”
To date, the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused millions of deaths and massive impacts to global economics and general wellbeing. Most patients have a mild to moderate disease course, being ill but not requiring hospitalization. Many studies have focused on patients with severe COVID, but few have characterized the normal immune responses to infection in patients with mild disease.
After infection with SARS-CoV-2, 10-30% of patients develop persistent symptoms including inflammatory disease, fatigue, brain fog, etc. that is referred to as “long COVID.” Patients with mild COVID make up most of those who go on to develop the symptoms of long COVID. It is unclear whether there are different subtypes of long COVID or whether the range of symptoms constitute a spectrum of the same disorder. The mechanisms by which the SARS-CoV-2 virus leads to dysregulation of the immune system to cause persistent inflammation are unknown.
We are partnering with researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to better understand how the immune system becomes dysregulated by SARS-CoV-2 infection to identify potential therapeutic approaches to treat patients with severe, debilitating disease. We hope to understand how vaccination may alter the response to SARS-CoV-2 and the manifestations of long COVID.