Pune: Scientists at four top institutes in Pune and Bengaluru are set to study the unique
composition of skin and oral microorganisms of Indians, as well as their distinct immune
responses, which could give clues into why the Covid death rate in the country was relatively
lower than among the European and American populations.

Scientists spearheading the expansive study involving 800 volunteers said the relatively low
Covid mortality in India perhaps had something to do with protection provided by the unique
microbiota (community of micro organisms) on the skin, as well as in the oral and nasal
cavities of Indians.

The study will also assess the long-term immunity, up to nine months, after
Covishield/Covaxin vaccination in healthy adults.

“In-depth immunogenicity data will improve the ability to make public health decisions on
need and timing for booster shots,” Dr Anand Kawade, lead principal investigator of the study
from Pune-based KEM Hospital Research Centre told TOI.

The other three institutions involved in the study include Pune based Symbiosis University
Hospital and Research Centre, Bangalore Baptist Hospital and St John’s Research Institute
in Bengaluru.

On assessing the composition of skin and oral microbiome of volunteers before and nine
months post-vaccination, Dr Kawade said, “Covid death rate in European and American
populations is high in comparison to India. There are theories on distinct skin and mucosal
microbiome as well as nutritional components in the Indian population. The study will thus
characterise the microbiome in the saliva samples and skin of the 800 participants. The
results can give clues into the role of this indigenous microbiome in protecting Indians from a
greater number of Covid mortalities.”

On the long-term immunity study, he said since Covaxin was an indigenous vaccine, there
was a need for data on how long the immunity lasted after two doses of the vaccine.

“Long term immunity for both Covishield and Covaxin will be assessed. Most such studies
have been undertaken at the international level in western populations. A need for similar
studies in India is being felt. If the immune response from both the vaccines persists for a
long-term period of up to nine months, it will help the government estimate the need for
booster doses too,” he said.

Dr Kawade said the study would also lay a special focus on T-Cell response after vaccination
with Covishield and Covaxin. “This is the most important part of the study. Though antibody
response post vaccination tends to diminish overtime, the T-cell response is a more durable
source of protection. Memory B-cells remember the infection and can thus provide long-term
protection,” he said.

Recent Posts

Share This Article!

Leave A Comment