COVID-19 immunity: Can you lose immunity to coronavirus after catching it?
COVID-19 immunity should guard those who contract the deadly virus against future infections, according to epidemiological tradition. Once the body has responded to a virus, it is better equipped to deal with follow-up infections, and these defences can last years. However, doctors have noted a difference with COVID-19.
Can you lose immunity to coronavirus?
Most diseases provide a period of immunity following infection, as the body grows accustomed to its invader.
The body acquires immunity once it has deployed antibodies to tackle a particular virus, and will recognise any repeated invasions.
The mechanism allows bodily defences to combat the virus before it replicates and causes symptoms.
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Immunity lasts about as long as a piece of string, as bodily responses vary by the disease.
For example, those who survive ebola may acquire antibodies for another 10 years after infection.
Scientists consider people who receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine as a child protected for life.
Coronavirus, on the other hand, may provide a far more limited dose of antibodies for survivors, new research has found.
A King’s College London research team studying those infected with COVID-19 has found COVID-19 survivor’s antibodies decline after three months.
Scientists examining more than 90 patients and healthcare workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust found antibodies peaked roughly three weeks after infection, after which they sharply declined.
Blood tests showed 60 percent of people retained a 60 percent “potent” level, but only 17 percent had the same potency three months after infection.
Researchers concluded immune response fell 23-fold over the period, and in some cases became undetectable.
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Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Katie Doores, lead author of the study, explained the findings may have implications for a potential future vaccine.
She said: “People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around.
“Infection tends to give you the best-case scenario for an antibody response, so if your infection is giving you antibody levels that wane in two to three months, the vaccine will potentially do the same thing.
“People may need boosting and one shot might not be sufficient.”
The findings indicate people may end up catching the disease in seasonal waves every year, much like the common cold.
In addition, they may rule out the potential workability of the “herd immunity” concept, which suggests COVID-19 would burn out if enough of the population contracted it.
Sone administrations, including Boris Johnson’s in the UK, started out seriously entertaining the concept while COVID-19 bloomed.
The Prime Minister questioned whether people in the UK might “take it on the chin” in response to the virus, but ultimately locked down while Sweden entertained the concept for longer.
Both countries now rank amongst the worst affected by COVID-19 in Europe.
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