According to a new study, antibodies against COVID-19 can disappear in some patients in as little as 2 months. How ABC News The findings may reportedly shatter hopes that so-called “immunity passports” could allow people to travel freely.
Antibodies are proteins produced by the body’s immune system as protection against pathogens like viruses or bacteria. When a person becomes ill from a virus, or is given an inactivated or weakened pathogen through a vaccine, the body produces antibodies, which can then fight the pathogen if it infects the patient again later.
However, a team of researchers from Chongqing Medical University in China found that, in the case of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, it appears that in some patients, those antibodies may disappear in as little as two months. In effect, that means that a patient who becomes ill with COVID-19 and then recovers may become ill again, rather than being immune for the rest of his life.
In the study, the researchers compared the immune responses of 37 people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 but had no symptoms, with 37 patients who had the disease and showed symptoms. Among patients who were not ill, 40 percent had no antibodies in their system just 2 months after diagnosis. In comparison, among sick patients, only 13 percent had lost their antibodies in the same time period.
The study findings seem to support what the medical community has suspected for some time: that being exposed to the coronavirus once, and even coming with COVID-19, does not necessarily mean that the patient cannot get it again.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, previously said the data appears to indicate that antibodies to the coronavirus family of viruses may disappear in as little as 3-6 months.
“When you look at the history of the common coronaviruses that cause the common cold, reports in the literature indicate that the durability of protective immunity varies from 3 to 6 months to almost always less than a year.”
The study findings also appear to strike yet another blow to the concept of so-called “immunity passports,” that is, a kind of theoretical documentation that a person has developed immunity to COVID-19 and therefore can travel freely or return to work. .
However, the Chinese study was small and limited in scope, and the scientific community is far from fully understanding the long-term effects on the body’s response to the pathogen.