Individuals who have recovered from coronavirus infections have the potential to remain immune for years, according to a new promising study that has yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.
The pre-print paper, however, is now available to the public on the online server biorxiv.org.
Conducted by scientists from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, University of California, San Diego, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the research is considered to be the most comprehensive study on coronavirus immunity thus far.
What the data points to is that even after eight months after being infected with the coronavirus, the study’s participants still possessed enough immune cells to fight off the virus 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.
Moreover, two types of T cells were identified, and their data indicate that “T cell memory might reach a more stable plateau, or slower decay phase, later than the first six months post-infection,” the team wrote.
“Overall, this is an important study confirming the existence of immune memory to SARS-CoV-2 but with a degree of variation from person to person,” Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said in a statement distributed by Science Media Centre that was seen by The National Interest.
“This variation might be due to some individuals having had very low-level asymptomatic infection. It might be expected that those previously infected individuals with a low immune memory response would be susceptible to re-infection with SARS-CoV-2. But the significant take home message is that the immune response to the virus is more long-lived than previously thought, and this lets us continue to hold hope that an effective vaccine will be able to induce sustained protective immunity.”
Conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the study added that 90 percent of people 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—that more than 90 percent 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,” 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.