In the ongoing debate over how long those who have recovered from COVID-19 infection can be immune to the new coronavirus, a new study – said to be the most comprehensive to date – offers a promising answer.
In a study published on the bioRxiv pre-print server on Monday, researchers said that immunity against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection, can last at least six months or may be longer. would be a matter of years.
The study, which has not yet been reviewed or published in a scientific journal, was conducted by scientists at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in California and Icahn Medical School in Mount Sinai in New York.
The researchers analyzed various aspects of immunity, including antibodies, B cells and two types of T cells. T cells respond to a foreign invader as a virus, but differ from antibodies and are thought to provide immunity against the coronavirus for a longer period of time.
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The study involved 185 adults in the United States between the ages of 19 and 81. All became infected with the virus but recovered, with most suffering from only a mild illness. The researchers collected blood samples from the study participants, with some participants giving only one sample, while others gave samples over a series of months, according to the study.
Finally, the researchers noted that the antibodies were “permanent,” showing only a moderate decline after six to eight months. Respondent antibody responses “covered a 200-fold range,” the researchers said.
Meanwhile, T-cell memory “may reach a more stable plateau or a slower phase of disintegration later than the first 6 months after infection,” they wrote, while B cells grew and “were richer at 6 months. than in 1 month, “they said.
The findings support past studies of coronavirus immunity, including one study that showed immunity in recovered patients with COVID-19 for at least three months. In addition, the researchers note, the findings “are also in line with [the] recent detection of SARS-CoV T cells 17 years after initial infection. “In other words, the findings are consistent with the recent discovery that survivors of the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s still had T cells against this coronavirus more than a decade after recovery.
“This amount of memory is likely to prevent most people from getting hospitalized, a serious illness, for many years,” Shane Croty, a virologist at the Institute of Immunology in La Jolla who led the study, told The New York Times from the findings.
The findings also provoked reactions from scientists who were not part of the study.
“This prepress has not been reviewed yet, but it brings exciting news. The immune system is more than just antibodies in the blood, and these authors have carefully measured different types of antibodies and different types of immune memory cells to see how long immunity lasts. They identify specific types of memory B cells and memory T cells that are still present in good numbers six to eight months after infection, “said Deborah Dunn-Walters, a professor of immunology at the University of Surrey and chair of the British expert. Immunology Society Immunology Advisory Group COVID-19, in a statement issued by the UK Science Media Center.
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“In fact, the cells continued to grow for two or three months after the onset of symptoms. So even if the levels of antibodies in the blood drop, there are cells ready to make new ones if necessary, “she continued.
“The document confirms the importance of examining memory B cells and memory T cells to assess immunity, and shows the best types of memory cells to look for and the best time to look for them. This gives us hope that immunity against SARS-CoV-2 can last for several years, ”added Dun-Walters.
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