Story at a glance:

  • “If you look at the trajectory of the immune response after infection, mostly it is still detectable six months later, but it’s highly variable between people,” said one of the study’s authors.
  • “That is quite different from vaccination. If you vaccinate you get a really robust response, but with natural infection there’s much more diversity in responses.”
  • Previous infection does not necessarily protect you from getting COVID-19 again.

As most cities reopen or lift coronavirus restrictions, some people are choosing to ignore safety protocols. However, researchers at Oxford University are urging those to seek protection, specifically those who had COVID-19 and think they cannot get it again.

With new variants of the disease, scientists at the U.K. Coronavirus Immunology Consortium say people should still wear a mask and get vaccinated, The Guardian reported.


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“If you look at the trajectory of the immune response after infection, mostly it is still detectable six months later, but it’s highly variable between people,” Eleanor Barnes, a hepatology and experimental medicine professor at Oxford’s Nuffield Department Medicine and senior author on the study, said.

“That is quite different to vaccination. If you vaccinate you get a really robust response, but with natural infection there’s much more diversity in responses,” she added.

Between April and June 2020, 78 health care workers who had the coronavirus, with or without symptoms, had their blood analyzed for up to six months post infection.

What was found were different antibodies that target the virus: B cells that make antibodies and retain a memory of the disease, and T cells, which kill off infected cells.

Using a system called SIMON, Sequential Iterative Modeling Over Night, to determine one’s early immune response and severity of their infection, it was conclusive that a T-cell response at one month could predict how strong the antibody response would be at six months.

People with weak immune responses had no detectable antibodies.

The researchers found that more than 90 percent of those who had asymptomatic infections had no measurable immune response six months later. Most of those with symptomatic disease had a measurable immune response six months later but more than a quarter did not.  

“In our view, previous infection does not necessarily protect you long-term from Sars-Cov-2, particularly variants of concern,” Barnes said. “You shouldn’t depend on it to protect you from subsequent disease, you should be vaccinated.” 

The research is posted to a preprint server and has yet to be peer reviewed.


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Published on Jun 21, 2021