Coronavirus immunity lasts only a few months: study

Patients who recover from coronavirus infections may lose their immunity to reinfection within months, according to research, released on Monday, news wires reported. That could have a significant influence on how governments manage the pandemic, experts said.

In the first study of its kind, a team led by researchers from King's College London examined the levels of antibodies in more than 90 confirmed virus patients and how they changed over time.  Blood tests showed even individuals with only mild COVID-19 symptoms mounted some immune response to the virus.  Of the study group, 60 % showed a "potent" viral response in the first few weeks after infection. However, after three months only 16.7% had maintained high levels of COVID-19-neutralising antibodies, and after 90 days several patients had no detectable antibodies in their bloodstream.

When the body encounters an external danger such as a virus, it mobilises cells to track down and kill the culprit.  As it does so, it produces proteins known as antibodies that are programmed to target the specific antigen the body is fighting, like a key cut for a particular lock. As long as someone has enough antibodies, they will be able to snub out new infections, giving them immunity.

But Monday's research suggests immunity cannot be taken for granted and may not last more than a few months, as is true with other viruses such as influenza.

Experts said the findings may change how governments plan for the next phase of the pandemic, including how they fund and organise vaccine research and development.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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