People who have contracted the novel coronavirus are “highly unlikely” to get the virus again for at least six months, according to a new study from the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The promising research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, involved more than 12,000 frontline health-care workers in Britain over a thirty-week period between April and November. The researchers eventually found that only three of the 1,246 study participants who had already developed COVID-19 antibodies retested positive for the virus. Moreover, none had a symptomatic infection.
Of the 11,052 medical workers who didn’t possess any antibodies, eighty-nine developed an infection with symptoms and seventy-nine developed an asymptomatic infection.
“Being infected with COVID-19 does offer protection against reinfection for most people for at least six months … (and) this is really good news, because we can be confident that, at least in the short term, most people who get COVID-19 won’t get it again,” the study’s co-author David Eyre, a professor in Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, said in a news release.
“We know from a previous study that antibody levels fall over time, but this latest study shows that there is some immunity in those who have been infected.”
The researchers, however, admitted that there was not yet enough data to make a decisive call on the level of protection from the initial infection beyond a six-month period.
In another recent study on COVID-19 immunity, scientists from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, University of California, San Diego, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai discovered that individuals who have recovered from coronavirus infections have the potential to remain immune for not only months but years.
The research revealed that even after eight months after being infected with COVID-19, the study’s participants still possessed enough immune cells to fight off the contagion and prevent another infection. Such a slow decline rate of immune cells strongly suggests that immunity may last for years.
The researchers also discovered that memory B cells were detected in nearly all coronavirus-positive patients—and there appears to be evidence that memory B cells increase over time.
“B cell memory to some other infections has been observed to be long-lived, including sixty-plus years after smallpox vaccination, or ninety-plus years after infection with influenza,” the researchers wrote in the study.
The findings are consistent with research by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai that was published in the journal Science. That study saw coronavirus immunity lasting for at least five months and 90 percent who recover from the virus are able to develop a stable overall antibody response.
“While some reports have come out saying antibodies to this virus go away quickly, we have found just the opposite,” the study’s co-author Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said in a release.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.