What are viruses and how is COVID-19 different?

Professor Katherine Kedzierska and Dr Marios Koutsakos from the School of Biomedical Sciences shed light on the science behind the search for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Professor Katherine Kedzierska and Dr Marios Koutsakos from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology have been working to discover critical distinctions on a molecular level between the current COVID-19 virus and past viruses.

Professor Kedzierska’s research group focuses on researching the immune system’s response to viral infections, especially the newly emerged influenza viruses. Her studies aim to identify key correlates of severe and fatal influenza disease in high-risk groups, including children, the elderly and Indigenous Australians.

Dr Marios Koutsakos’s current research is centred around human immunology and influenza virology. He also focuses on the pre-clinical development of universal influenza vaccines, immunity to influenza B viruses and immunity in high-risk groups of severe influenza infection, like transplant recipients.

COVID-19 vaccine development

Professor Kedzierska’s research group alongside Dr Koutsakos showed in March that usually our immune systems can launch a robust response to fight SARS-CoV-2, which is good news for vaccine developers.

By tracking blood samples in a COVID-19 patient with mild symptoms, they were able to map how our immune system goes about fighting this coronavirus. They are now trying to understand which parts of the immune system "go awry" in those who develop severe disease.

This means vaccine developers now have a range of areas in our immune system that they can potentially target in creating a vaccine that can head off infection or make it less severe.

Read more about the challenges currently faced by researchers as they search for a COVID-19 vaccine
in the full article published in Pursuit:

Read the article