Why do some of us get so sick with COVID while others fare so well? Hint: It's all about the T-cell

Micronutrient Testing - Cardio Metabolic - Telomere - MTHFR. Learn More

Why do some of us get so sick with COVID while others fare so well? Hint: It's all about the T-cell


Do you know what a T-cell is? You should. It is the superstar of fighting COVID. We all have T-cells, which are a type of white blood cells (lymphocyte) and they are the key players in launching an effective immune response, keyword being effective. An immune response that goes haywire will harm, and even kill a person.  An effective immune system targets a pathogen, launches an attack, neutralizes the pathogen (in this case the SARS-CoV2 virus), and then settles back down to reduce collateral damage to healthy tissue. The key to this adaptable, and therefore effective response is the T-cell.

Why is the T-cell so special? 

A lot of reasons but a big one is that the T-cell can act as a general in the military, directing other cells what to do. Some T-cells kill infected cells directly, (called cytotoxic cells) while other T-cells (called helper cells) release chemicals that act as messengers to tell surrounding tissue how to respond. These superstars of our immune system are quite sophisticated.  They even keep a memory of invaders so our bodies are better prepared for any future attacks by the same virus.

Our immune systems are exquisitely complex and dynamic and the T-cell is central to the whole system. In the past two years since COVID-19 made its debut, scientists have been studying the T-cell and its role in fighting COVID. What they are finding is that people who have unhealthy, or weak T-cells may be more susceptible to bad outcomes when exposed to the COVID virus. 

Research supports “a concept of altered T-cell function in at-risk patients” and that “lymphocyte functionality may be impaired [in severe COVID]”.1  

In simple terms: people whose T-cells don’t function properly are more likely to be sicker when they get COVID. A healthy immune system increases your chances of faring well when exposed to the COVID virus. And a well-functioning T-cell is the key to a robust, healthy immune system.

This begs the question – what about underlying conditions? Not surprisingly, the underlying conditions that correlate highly with COVID severity (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc) also compromise T-cell health.  Most co-morbidities are linked to chronic inflammation. Inflammation is really just an immune response. It is good when directed at pathogens, rogue cells, or damaged tissue.  But when inflammation is chronic, for whatever reason, the immune system which oversees the inflammatory response is overworked, stressed, and tired.  

When the body is chronically inflamed, the T-cells become exhausted, literally. Then, when a nasty pathogen like SARS-CoV-2 comes along, the T-cells are too tired to fight it, and we get sick.  Sometimes really sick. That’s why it is imperative to keep our T-cells healthy. 

In fact, according to a study out of Germany1, when researchers separated patients based on their ability to mount a T-cell response or not, the people who died from COVID could not launch a robust T-cell response in most cases.  The scientists state that innate inflammation is a “driver for functional T cell exhaustion” and the T-cell plays a “crucial role of cellular immunity for antiviral protection.” This means that in order to increase our chances of successfully recovering from COVID, we need to keep our T-cells healthy.  

Is there a test that measures T-cell function?

There is! It may interest you to know that SpectraCell Laboratories has been measuring T-cell health for 30 years. 

Further, the SpectraCell Micronutrient Test gives you a roadmap on exactly how to improve your personal T-cell health, by reporting the nutrients your actual T-cells need in order to function optimally. 

SpectraCell's innovative biotechnology is based on a lymphocyte proliferation assay using a person’s own blood cells to assess their specific cellular needs.

Order your test today.

Interested in learning more? Register for our upcoming webinar, T-Cell Function: Unlocking the Secrets to an Adaptable Immune Response. 

Register Now


1Sattler A et al. The SARS–CoV-2–specific T cell responses and correlations with COVID-19 patient predisposition. Journal of Clinical Investigation 2020;130:6477-6489.
2Diao B et al. Reduction and functional exhaustion of T cells in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Front Immunol. 2020;11:827