New UK Study Suggests That Coronavirus Immunity May Be Short-Lived
According to a recent UK study, coronavirus immunity for many patients may start to disappear within months. The study found that antibodies to the virus peaked three weeks after symptoms and then gradually faded away, according to a report by Business Insider.
The study looked at antibody responses of 90 patients and health workers and found that 60 percent of participants had “potent” antibodies while having COVID-19, but only 17 percent of patients had the same potency level three months after.
The potency of the antibodies fell as much as 23-fold over three months. Some patients showed no antibodies after that time, which puts doubt on the possibility for a long-lasting vaccine.
The findings indicate that those with the most severe cases of COVID-19 may have antibodies that are more potent and long-lasting. It also points to the idea that coronavirus may act similar to the common cold in that people can get re-infected, even if the developed antibodies when they were first infected.
The finding "puts another nail in the coffin of the dangerous concept of herd immunity," according to Jonathan Heeney, one of the authors of the study.
Herd immunity is the idea that a group of people will become immune to the virus if at least 60 percent of people catch it.
"Ultimately this may require the use of annual boosting immunisations, particularly for the most vulnerable. This could be delivered alongside annual influenza immunisations," said Robin Shattock, a professor at Imperial College London.
"I cannot underscore how important it is that the public understands that getting infected by this virus is not a good thing. Some of the public, especially the youth, have become somewhat cavalier about getting infected, thinking that they would contribute to herd immunity," said Heeney. "Not only will they place themselves at risk, and others, by getting infected, and losing immunity, they may even put themselves at greater risk of more severe lung disease if they get infected again in the years to come."
The study has not yet been peer-reviewed, but a similar study in Spain found that only 5 percent of people tested had maintained coronavirus antibodies although 14 percent of participants tested positive for antibodies in the first round of testing.
The two authors of the study in Spain, Isabella Eckerle and Benjamin Meyer said, “In light of these findings, any proposed approach to achieve herd immunity through natural infection is not only highly unethical, but also unachievable."
However, Professor Arne Akbar disagrees, saying that T-cells, which are produced to fight common colds, may help supplement protection produced by antibodies. If this is true, immunity for COVID-19 may last longer than the findings of the studies suggest.
Read the full report here.