Months after recovering from mild cases of COVID-19, people still have immune cells in their body pumping out antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Such cells could persist for a lifetime, churning out antibodies all the while.
The findings, published May 24 in the journal Nature, suggest that mild cases of COVID-19 leave those infected with lasting antibody protection and that repeated bouts of illness are likely to be uncommon.
“Last fall, there were reports that antibodies wane quickly after infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and mainstream media interpreted that to mean that immunity was not long-lived,” said senior author Ali Ellebedy, PhD, an associate professor of pathology & immunology, of medicine and of molecular microbiology. “But that’s a misinterpretation of the data. It’s normal for antibody levels to go down after acute infection, but they don’t go down to zero; they plateau. Here, we found antibody-producing cells in people 11 months after first symptoms. These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives. That’s strong evidence for long-lasting immunity.”
Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is the American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention and a former state health commissioner of Texas. He has dealt with major public health crises – including the SARS outbreak. In this occasional series, he’ll break down various topics related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently I heard a medical “expert” on the news incorrectly define the term “herd immunity.” It’s a new phrase for many people, but we’re hearing about it more and more, so it’s important to understand exactly what it is.
First, let’s discuss how immunity works for individuals. A person can become immune (or resistant) after exposure to a disease-causing agent, such as the coronavirus causing COVID-19 in this case. The process of becoming immune includes the production of antibodies specific to the virus for future protection. Continue reading →
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