Antibodies Are Lost Three Months After Covid19 Infection: Study
A new study by scientists from the UK has found that immunity against Covid19 could be lost within months — exposing recovered patients to chances of re-infection.
When someone is infected with any virus, including the novel coronavirus, their body’s immune system produces antibodies to fight it. But, this new study noted steep drops in antibody levels of recovered Covid19 patients within three months of being infected — indicating that natural immunity developed against the virus declines swiftly. Yet to be peer-reviewed, the study found that while 60 percent of people demonstrated a potent antibody response at the height of their battle with the virus, only 17 percent retained the same potency three months later — in some cases, it became completely undetectable. The implications of this are enormous — people could become reinfected in seasonal waves of the virus, and it’s possible vaccines may not be able to provide long-term protection.
The results of the study have also dealt a severe blow to the myth that herd immunity could, potentially, protect us from Covid19. Herd immunity occurs when so many members of a community are immune against a pathogen, that its spread within the community diminishes to a point where even the non-immune people are protected. But, a steep drop in antibodies over time suggests that we may never achieve the level of immunity that could, over time, evolve into herd immunity.
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“This certainly suggests that we cannot be confident natural infection will be protective for a significant proportion of individuals, nor certain of the duration of any protection,” Robin Shattock, professor of mucosal infection and immunity at the Faculty of Medicine, of Imperial College London, told The Guardian. He was also not involved in the present study, and is currently working on developing a vaccine for Covid19.
Experts have been warning for months that the mistaken public assumptions about herd immunity might be driving young people, in particular, to be more cavalier about protecting themselves from Covid19 infection, under the assumption that getting and surviving one infection would render them immune forever. Given that healthcare systems, globally, are already reeling under the impact of the pandemic, with hospitals running out of beds in some places, this mindset is especially dangerous.
At present, the best way to protect against Covid19 remains proper handwashing, wearing masks in public, and practicing social distancing.