GRANTS. The Swedish Research Council has accepted applications by Martin Lagging and Heléne Norder to the Proof of Concept call for proposals in the field of infections. They will each receive SEK 2 million.
Martin Lagging and Anna Martner have developed a simple method to detect SARS-CoV-2 specific T cells in blood samples to complement traditional antibody assays.
“For example, we have observed that highly specific T cells that help defend against SARS-CoV-2 persist in the blood for several years after infection. On the other hand, antibody levels often decrease rapidly over time. This makes the T cell assays we have developed suitable for identifying patients suffering from post-COVID,” says Martin Lagging.
Monitors immune response
Up to now, the T cell assays have been used to measure the immune response of healthy participants following vaccination, infection, or a combination of these. The assays have also been used to monitor patients with defective T-cell immunity, such as bone marrow transplant recipients and patients with cirrhosis.
The team will now continue to monitor the durability of T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 in these groups and further develop the tool.
“These T cell tests are relatively easy to perform, and our goal is to make them a clinically useful tool for measuring immunity to SARS-CoV-2,” says Lagging. “We will develop and evaluate similar assays for other viruses, including tick-borne encephalitis and hepatitis B.”
Coronavirus in wastewater in more labs
Heléne Norder and her colleagues have been studying SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater since February 2020. The studies have been conducted in collaboration with the municipal company Gryaab, which treats wastewater in Gothenburg and the surrounding area. The company has sent the researchers one shipment a week, consisting of samples collected daily.
The researchers have continuously reported their results to healthcare providers, to infectious-disease control within Region Västra Götaland and to the public. For funding reasons, this project has recently been terminated.
“It is indeed good news that we are receiving this grant from the Swedish Research Council, but that does not mean we can continue routine monitoring in the same way as before,” says Norder. “The funding we received will simplify the technique of concentrating viruses from wastewater so that the method can be implemented in all microbiology laboratories that want to perform the tests themselves.”
Ready for a new law
On January 1, 2025, a new European Union law is likely to take effect. It will require all towns and cities with more than 100,000 residents to monitor sewage.
“Thanks to these funds, we can retain the expertise at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and the University of Gothenburg that will allow us to quickly have the technology in place if the law becomes reality,” says Norder.
BY: ELIN LINDSTRÖM