Coronavirus immunity could 'last for years,' new study suggests

Grant Boone
November 20, 2020

A team of researchers from California and NY have found that people infected with the coronavirus may develop lasting immunity, an encouraging discovery for vaccine developers jolted by previous studies indicating human antibodies die out over time.

"Now we've got to get the data about the vaccines in front of regulators for them to scrutinise it and approve the first vaccines, and then we've got that huge effort to climb up to the top where we've got a vast majority of those who are at risk vaccinated and protected, so that the most vulnerable are no longer at risk, and we can start to get back to normal".

Scientists said the results indicated most people are unlikely to get COVID-19 again if they have already had it in the previous six months.

While there are multiple vaccines against the coronavirus being studied, with two showing efficacy of preventing the virus of at least 90%, scientists have questioned how long the public would remain immune and if repeat vaccines would be necessary in order to keep the pandemic in check.

Sette and his colleagues recruited 185 men and women, aged 19 to 81, who had recovered from COVID-19. Eight months was as long as the study lasted, but scientists said the memory cells likely persist longer than that.

The staff were tested for antibodies to the virus as a way of detecting who had been infected before.

More on the study: The study was conducted at seven sites across the United States and included older adults who went to emergency departments on or after March 13.

Russian COVID-19 cases top 2 mln_china
Raksha said he resigned from Rosstat in July after publicly commenting on how the agency counted coronavirus-related deaths. An ice rink in the capital, Moscow, has been turned into a temporary hospital to reduce the strain on the medical system.

This remarkable proficiency demonstrated during Phase 3 trials wouldn't mean almost as much if the antibodies generated by the vaccines fade away over time, leaving people vulnerable again to infection.

But newer recent research on T-cells was more optimistic, suggesting a response could last for much longer.

"It suggests that COVID-19 doesn't appear to hinder the formation of long-lived memory cells", said Roan, who recently published a study showing that a protein called Interleukin-7 boosted the number of T-cells in the body. "The spike IgG titers were durable, with modest declines in titers at six to eight months".

It means the body is likely to be able to react quickly to reinfections, ensuring they are only mild or asymptomatic.

The study is the first to chart the immune response to a virus in such granular detail, experts said. But studies so far have suggested that even small numbers of antibodies or T and B cells may be enough to shield those who have recovered. "For sure, we have no priors here", Gommerman said.

More than five months after their COVID-19 diagnosis "96% of individuals were still positive for at least three out of five SARS-CoV-2 immune memory responses", the study said.

University of Arizona immunologist Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya added, "I don't think it's an unreasonable prediction to think that these immune memory components would last for years".

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