COVID19 immunology animations

COVID19 immunology animations

Immune Memory and the Coronavirus

In partnership with the British Society for Immunology, the Centre for Inflammation Research developed a three-part animated series on the human immune system and how immune memories form in response to infections like coronavirus.

The animations were designed and written by Dr Lana Woolford (Centre for Inflammation Reserch Public Engagement Officer) and Professor Donald J. Davidson, narrated by Donald and produced by Lana at Cloud Chamber Studios.

The human immune system is remarkable and complex. Typically, the memory it forms in response to infection or vaccination helps to protect us against future disease. Immunologists study the details of how it functions – research that continues to change the way we prevent and treat existing and emerging diseases.

This three-part series is intended to provide interested non-experts and high school students with an introductory overview, in the context of SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 infection and vaccines, to how the immune system works, how immune memories form, and what happens when immune memories fade or fail to form.

Part I: Emergency response

COVID-19 changed the world in 2020. Questions around testing, vaccines, treatments, who gets ill and who doesn’t – these all relate to immune memory. Part I explains how your body’s immune system works and what happens when we get a viral infection like coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

Part II: How do cells remember?

What are T and B cells? Part II explains how your immune system remembers a previous infection to protect you, and how vaccines take advantage of this.

Part III: Why do immune systems forget?

Why does the span of immune memory change so much between different diseases and in different groups of people? Part III explains the different ways in which our immune systems can appear to ‘forget’.

COVID-19 research at CIR

The Centre for Inflammation Research specialises in researching the mechanisms and consequences of inflammation in the body, in health and illness. This research enhances our knowledge and informs the development of new diagnostic tools, treatments and preventative approaches to diseases.

Inflammation is one of the key hallmarks of the body’s response to COVID-19. An effective and appropriate inflammatory response helps aid complete recovery. However, a poorly controlled, mistimed or inappropriate response can cause harm; resulting in lack of oxygen, fluid in the lungs and multiple organ failure.

Within the Centre for Inflammation Research, the STOPCOVID project aims to understand how coronavirus causes inflammation and what treatments could be used to stop a damaging response, and the ICECAP project studies what has happened to the body when a patient dies of COVID-19.

Visit the ICECAP pages

Visit the STOPCOVID pages


Interested? Links to other resources

These resources are all produced by external organisations using reliable, up-to-date research – produced and reviewed by experts in the field.


What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness in humans and animals. Seven different types have been found in people, including those responsible for the SARS, MERS and COVID-19 epidemics (SARS-CoV-2).

UKRI: What is coronavirus? The different types of coronaviruses

The Physiological Society: “Coronavirus”


What happens when immune responses fail in COVID-19?

Severe COVID-19 has diverse effects that affect multiple organs of the body. The most important consequence of severe COVID-19 is a reduction in the lung’s ability to transfer oxygen from the air into the blood – leading to low blood oxygen levels (hypoxia).

UKRI: Coronaviruses and disease

UKRI: How does the coronavirus cause illness?

UKRI: How does the coronavirus cause serious COVID-19 disease?


The British Society for Immunology (BSI) Expert Summary Reports

COVID-19 immunology review: an expert summary

Briefing note: What we know about long-term immunological health consequences and priorities for research

Report: The ageing immune system and COVID-19


What roles do the different types of immune cell have?

Supercytes is a game and learning resource which explains the roles of different immune cells in the human body. Some have unique properties, and others have many different, dynamic and overlapping roles.

Watch the Supercytes animations  


How are T and B cells trained and selected?

BiteSized Immunology is a developing online resource designed to form a comprehensive guide to the immune system.

British Society for Immunology: BiteSized Immunology


What happens during a COVID test?

Testing for COVID-19 can be informative and important for science, medicine and public health. But what does it mean for you?

The British Society for Immunology: COVID-19 testing: what does it mean for me?


How are vaccines made, and made effective?

Vaccines are made of water, the active ingredient, an adjuvant to stimulate the immune response, stabilisers, and traces of components used to make the vaccine.

The British Society for Immunology: COVID-19 vaccine video Q&A

The British Society for Immunology: What’s in a vaccine?

The British Society for Immunology: Celebrate vaccines


Compromised immune systems: who is at higher risk?

The new coronavirus affects different people in different ways. Only a small proportion of people become seriously ill. However, to target prevention and treatment, it is important to understand who is at greatest risk of developing a serious illness or critical symptoms.

UKRI: Who is at risk of serious illness?

The British Society for Immunology (BSI) Expert Summary Reports

Report: The ageing immune system and COVID-19


Our funders

We are very grateful to our funders for making this important public resource possible.

This work was supported by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office through a Translational Clinical Studies grant (ref TCS/18/02).

Action Medical Research contributed funds to support public engagement work at the Centre for Inflammation Research (grant reference GN2703).

LifeArc provided £2m to the University of Edinburgh’s STOPCOVID project to support the development of new medicines for COVID-19.

UK Research and Innovation provided funding for the University of Edinburgh’s ICECAP project (grant reference MR/V028790/1).


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