Virus immunity in recovered patients may be gone in months, researchers say

People who have recovered from COVID-19 may lose their immunity to the virus within months, according to research released this month. 

The study is the first of its kind examining the antibody levels in confirmed coronavirus patients and evaluating how they change over time. 

Researchers analyzed immune responses of patients and health care workers at Guy's and St. Thomas’ National Health Service Foundation Trust in London and found that levels of antibodies that destroy the virus quickly declined after peaking several weeks after patients exhibited symptoms. 

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The study found that 60 percent of the patients had a “potent” antibody response at peak of their battle with the coronavirus. After about two months, however, just 16.7 percent of the patients had a potent antibody response. 

In some cases, the antibody response to the virus later became undetectable. 

“People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around,” Katie Doores, lead author on the study at King’s College London, told The Guardian in an interview published Sunday.

The findings may impact how governments plan for the next phase of the pandemic and fund vaccine research and development. 

"This is an important study that starts to define the longer-term dynamics of the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2," Lawrence Young, professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Warwick, told AFP

“It further emphasizes the need for us to better understand what a protective immune response looks like if we are to develop an effective vaccine," Young added. The professor was not involved in the research.

The virus has infected more than 12.9 million people and killed 570,220 people globally, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.