Immunity to coronavirus infection persists for at least five months, researchers have reported – and likely longer than that.
While the released data may seem confusing and contradictory compared to a similar report from Britain this week, it isn’t. People’s bodies produce an army of immune compounds in response to an infection, and some are overwhelming at first, die quickly, while others build up more slowly.
The new report released Wednesday shows that 90% of people recovering from Covid-19 infection maintain a stable antibody response.
“While some reports have come out saying antibodies to this virus go away quickly, we have found just the opposite — that more than 90% of people who were mildly or moderately ill produce an antibody response strong enough to neutralize the virus, and the response is maintained for many months,” Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who led the research team, in a statement.
Can you be infected twice with Covid-19? It is a question that everybody is asking. The team examined the antibody responses and the effect of more than 30,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the Mount Sinai’s Health System between March and October. They classified and characterized their antibody responses as low, moderate, or high. More than 90% had moderate to high levels or titers of antibodies to the virus spike protein – the structure it uses to attack the cells it infects.
They then studied 121 patients who recovered and donated plasma, once three months after they developed the first symptoms and again five months later. They saw a drop in some antibodies. But others persisted, according to in the journal Science.
New reports resulted that coronavirus immunity can be found and last for months. “The serum antibody titer that we initially measured in individuals was probably produced by plasmablasts, cells that first respond to an invading virus and combine to produce initial bouts of antibodies whose strength soon wanes,” said Dr Ania Wajnberg, Director of Clinical Antibody Testing at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“The sustained antibody levels that we subsequently observed are likely produced by long-lived plasma cells in the bone marrow. This is similar to what we see in other viruses and likely means they are here to stay. We will continue to follow this group over time to see if these levels remain stable as we suspect and hope they will.”
Antibodies are not the immune system’s only protection against infection, but they represent an essential first line of defence.
“Although this cannot provide conclusive evidence that these antibody responses protect from reinfection, we believe it is very likely that they will decrease the odds ratio of reinfection,” the team wrote.
Covid-19 has been around for just under a year, so scientists are still learning it. The stories of people infected more than once are mostly anecdotal and rare.
It occurs with other viruses. Measles is one example. A measles attack usually leaves a person immune for life — an effect which is widely known as sterilizing immunity. The same was true of smallpox before this virus was eradicated in the 1970s by a worldwide vaccination campaign. And a good vaccination against measles and smallpox vaccination completely protects against infection.
But respiratory viruses like the flu are more complicated. People can get the flu repeatedly, and flu shots usually provide only partial protection against severe infections and illnesses. Part of this is due to the influence’s tendency to shift.
Coronaviruses seem to fall in the middle. They can cause colds, but since they are usually not fatal, they have not been studied as well. Until the arrival of Covid-19’s lethal SARS cousin, there was little interest in coronaviruses.
Still, there is some evidence that humans can and do develop antibodies for immunity to coronaviruses.
“It is still unclear if infection with SARS-CoV-2 in humans protects from reinfection and for how long.”
The next critical step, they said, will be the coordination and establishment what are known as security correlates. These are compounds that can be found in the blood that will tell doctors if a person is immune – so there will be no need to wait to see if they get infected again after an episode or after receiving a vaccine.
“Often a victim will call and say, ‘I’m not sure I should be calling you. He’s never actually hit me yet, ”Jones said.
Meanwhile, the survivor says their partner has threatened suicide and murder, which should be taken very seriously.
Identify the safe areas in your home.
When there’s nowhere to go, safety planning is essential. Find paths to exit, away from weapons. In case of arguments, “Stay away from places where you could be attacked by things not traditionally used as weapons,” Jones said.
- Stay away from the kitchen – knives and pots of boiling water can be used to physically harm you.
- Stay out of the bathroom – razors and the toilet can be used to restrain you, and towels can be used to strangle you.
- Stay away from rooms where your partner has a firearm.
- Always have a telephone accessible, know the numbers to call for help
- Know where the nearest public telephone is located.
- Purchase a cheap flip phone from a pharmacy with prepaid minutes.
- Keep the numbers of friends and family numbers on your cell phone, as well as the number of a local shelter number and hotline number: 800-799-SAFE (7233).
“We are hearing abusive partners will take the phone and monitor phone activity if you are trying to find opportunities to leave or ask for help,” Jones said.
In this case, you can buy a phone in a pharmacy with prepaid minutes on it that your partner knows nothing about. Make your situation known to trusted friends and neighbors.
Make a plan and a visual cue for the neighbors when you may need their help. Give them clear instructions in advance about who you want them to contact, or don’t reach out if you need their help.
“You may not want them to call law enforcement,” said Jones. The decision must be in the hands of the victim.
“We’re getting calls from survivors saying ‘I called police but because of Covid, they aren’t detaining for misdemeanors’ — creating a complicated safety issue for survivors” Jones said.
As a friend or neighbor, you want to say “How can I help you — what do you need?”