In the context of being used for therapy rather than prevention, doctors have successfully used vaccination to treat a patient with COVID-19.
Ian Lester, a dispensing optician from Pontypridd, who has a rare genetic immunodeficiency, tested positive for COVID-19 for seven-and-a-half months after receiving the virus.
The virus was finally recovered from his body after a clinicians from the Immunodeficiency Centre for Wales used two doses of the Pfizer vaccine to treat him, and scientists from Cardiff University monitored his immune system response.
It suggests that the vaccination successfully stimulated Mr Lesters'' immune system to clear the virus, and that this approach might be used to treat other individuals who are immune compromised.
The nurses, nurses, and scientists who assisted me, said Mr Lester, whose case is outlined in the Journal of Clinical Immunology.
Mr Lester developed the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a rare illness that causes immunodeficiency, so he has a dampened reaction to infection. When he caught COVID-19 in December 2020, Mr Lester was unable to fight off the virus and it was repeatedly detected for at least 218 days. This is different to long COVID where the effects of infection may remain even after the virus has been cleared.
During this time, he developed choppy chest tightness, insomnia, headaches, poor concentration, and extreme fatigue and had to self-isolate for some parts of this time.
Given the persistent positive PCR tests and its impact on his health and mental health, we decided on a unique therapeutic approach, according to Professor Stephen Jolles, the Centre''s clinical lead and honorary professor at Cardiff University''s School of Medicine.
We wondered whether a therapeutic vaccination might aid in resolving the virus by establishing a strong immune response inside the body.
One month apart, we administered two doses of the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine and found a strong antibody response, much stronger than it had been caused by the prolonged natural infection.
Researchers at the Centre, which is located at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, found that a strong T-cell response is crucial to managing the virus.
SARS-CoV-2 clearance, according to Dr Mark Ponsford, a clinician scientist at Cardiff University, was finally discovered 72 days after the first vaccination dose, and 218 days since it was first detected.
He said it was a pretty frightening moment.
This is the first time mRNA vaccination has been used to eradicate persistent COVID-19 infection. Importantly, the patient received excellent antibody and T-cell response and this was remarkable given Ian''s response to conventional vaccinations in the past has been very limited.
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We have all seen how vital immunization is in the ongoing battle against the global pandemic, but our study is the first to highlight the possibility for it to be used as a treatment for persistent infection, according to Dr Ponsford.
Although these are rare genetic causes of immunodeficiency, there are still many more individuals who have been denied immunity because of their medical conditions and therapies. In this context, we should be alert to persistent COVID-19 infection and develop the tools to respond accordingly.