Early studies on immune response to the coronavirus seems to suggest some good news – people show signs of lasting immunity to COVID-19 even after mild infections.
Several recently published studies, first reported by the New York Times on Sunday, show antibodies, the body’s disease-fighters, are able to recognize and continue to fight COVID-19 months after infection has ended.
“This is exactly what you would hope for … All the pieces are there to have a totally protective immune response,” Marion Pepper, a University of Washington immunologist and author of one study told the New York Times.
Proof of lasting immunity to COVID-19 could be vital for health authorities looking at how to contain the virus’ spread, which has already left over 770,000 dead around the world. Experts have previously said that a vaccine is crucial to stopping the pandemic. However, if those who were infected develop an immunity, less vaccines would be necessary to protect the global population.
In this case, ending the coronavirus crisis would be easier.
“This is very promising … This calls for some optimism about herd immunity, and potentially a vaccine,” Smita Iyer, an immunologist at the University of California, Davis explained to the New York Times.
Researchers have said, however, that detection of antibodies is not entire proof of protection against the virus, as those who have already been infected will need to encounter the virus a second time for scientists to determine if immunity is present.
Importantly, some of the studies have found that immune responses have developed in those that did not fall seriously ill with the coronavirus, Iyer told the New York Times. Other researchers had previously warned that less-severe cases might result in the body failing to remember the virus for as long – having a deleterious effect on the time that immunity might last.
“This paper suggests this is not true,” Iyer said, the New York Times reported. “You can still get durable immunity without suffering the consequences of infection.”