The Unlikely Relationship between COVID-19 and the Human Immune System


In March 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic. Coronaviruses are actually quite common. However, while some can cause mild colds and respiratory infections, others can evade the immune system and cause more severe symptoms and illnesses. The coronavirus behind COVID-19, is among those rare and novel types that managed to elude the human immune system – so much so that the disease became a pandemic.

Determining how the human immune system responds to a virus is crucial in the development of vaccines. But as anyone can get infected and infect others, it is also important for us to understand how COVID-19 affects the body after infection. In today’s blog post, RiteCare Medical Center in Hialeah hopes to shed light on this matter so each of us can better recognize the importance of getting tested and vaccinated.

The Human Immune Responses: What Your Body Does in the Presence of a Pathogen

The human body’s disease-fighting defense is composed of two systems, the innate and adaptive immune responses. Both of them need to work together to create immunity from infection. 

The innate immune response serves as the body’s first line of defense against foreign pathogens, which include viruses. This system comprises the skin, white blood cells, and other barriers and molecule fighters such as the natural antiviral interferons. The body’s innate immune response is supposed to act immediately, deploying weapons and soldiers to the site of the invasion, so to speak. 

Meanwhile, the adaptive immune system acts as the body’s second-level defense. It comprises the B cells that deploy antibodies and the T cells that kill foreign invaders and remember old ones. This system is strong; however, it responds slowly. It takes a few days before it attacks. But once it does, it kills the invaders and quickly neutralizes new pathogens that try to reinfect the patient.

COVID-19 and the Immune System

It was initially thought that patients with severe symptoms develop a weak or insufficient immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, the latest clinical findings show that their immune systems are actually working double-time, producing immune cells in large quantities. Unfortunately, they are not functioning as they are supposed to. The patients’ immune response is caught in a loop of inhibition and activation, preventing it from effectively fighting off the virus.

Studies also show that SARS-CoV-2 suppresses the human immune system by hampering the actions of interferons and immune cells. This process of immunosuppression is conceived as the reason why COVID-19 has a relatively long incubation period. Furthermore, it also causes the innate immune system to deploy more white blood cells, resulting in excessive inflammation. This, in turn, leads to the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome. 

Moreover, scientists have also discovered that excessive immune response could itself be the reason why some patients experience severe to life-threatening symptoms. It is believed that the immune system of those who have little to no symptoms do not even notice the presence of the virus. Meanwhile, patients with severe symptoms have immune systems that develop an excessive reaction to the virus, potentially causing even greater damage than the virus itself.

These findings suggest that, other than preventing virus infection and treating symptoms, keeping the immune system from overreacting is also crucial.


The Importance of Getting Tested for COVID-19

As mentioned above, the development of symptoms after contracting the COVID-19 virus will generally depend on how a patient’s immune system reacts to it. One could carry the virus and not feel ill at all. Some may experience mild symptoms and get better after a while, making them think it was not COVID. If you have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or you feel related symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, and diarrhea, it is highly recommended that you consider getting tested.

RiteCare offers reliable COVID-19 testing in Hialeah for individuals who need to be tested. We also offer telemedicine in Hialeah to ensure that you get medical assistance despite quarantine requirements and travel restrictions. Call (305) 200-1225 to ask us about any health concerns that you may have. 

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.