Health Care

Coronavirus: immunity for six months after contracting the virus

Coronavirus: immunity for six months after contracting the virus”

PEOPLE INFECTED WITH the coronavirus could remain immune for years after their recovery, a new study suggests, offering news that could quell worries about waning immunity as potential vaccines are nearing availability.

Researchers found that eight months after infection, recovered patients still had enough B cells and T cells, which are essential for fighting off the virus in their bodies. The slow rate of decline specifically among memory B-cells and T-cells hinted that these cells, which help fight disease, may persist in the human body for quite a long time.

The study, conducted by scientists at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in California, has already been published online.

Immunity to Covid in people who have contracted the virus may last far longer than thought, draft research indicated today. The researchers also took blood samples from 38 people over many months.

A number of different papers have recently suggested that immunity may wane in as little as three months, raising questions over how effective any vaccine campaign may be.

The findings are consistent with a similar study that showed immunity in people for at least three months and another that showed immunity in people even when antibodies weren't detectable.

The new findings, the Times notes, appear to line up with another recent discovery that survivors of SARS, which was also caused by a coronavirus, still carry important immune cells 17 years after infection. This was done to create a greater idea of the immune response to COVID-19 infection.

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The research found the longer term form of antibodies, known as immunoglobulin G (IgG) only showed "modest" declines at the six to eight month marks.

The team focused on four components of the immune system: antibodies, B cells that make more antibodies, as well as two T cells that kill other infected cells.

Nearly all of the survivors developed memory B-cells that were capable of creating new antibodies if they encountered coronavirus again.

He said: "Firstly, although most of the cases described here had mild disease, it looks as though their immunity to a second infection is reasonably high".

If verified, the study will certainly bring a sigh of relief to experts who feared that the disease would be resistant to long-term immune response. "For sure, we have no priors here", Gommerman said. One frequently cited study, led by Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University, suggested that immunity might fade quickly and that reinfections could occur within a year. "And so seeing evidence that we have this kind of persistent, robust response, at least to these time scales, is very encouraging". And while there have been cases of reinfection, they seem to be rare, per the Times.

Exactly how long immunity lasts is hard to predict, because scientists don't yet know what levels of various immune cells are needed to protect from the virus. Other researchers found that those who had recovered from COVID-19 contained cells that would fight the virus, even if antibodies were not present on tests.

These "memory" cells are crucial. "Usually, there's a slow decay over years". Iwasaki noted that this was what suppose to happen, but she added that this is still exciting news.

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