Please do not freak out about the latest coronavirus antibody study

People vote during the October 28, 2020 preliminary vote at the Brooklyn Armory in New York City.

People vote during the October 28, 2020 preliminary vote at the Brooklyn Armory in New York City.
Photo: Spencer plot (Getty Images)

Preliminary data from ongoing studies in the UK are raising alarm bells this week over the epidemic. There is evidence that levels of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 have dropped sharply in the general population of England during the summer, leading to fears that covid-19 immunity will decline in less than three months.

Although the findings of the study are relevant, they are not as scary as they appear. Such studies alone cannot tell us if the immune system fades very quickly, and, importantly, antibodies are not the only factor that determines immunity to infectious diseases such as Covid-19. Other research, including a recently published study, suggests that our most important antibodies to Covid-19 are not as risky as UK studies suggest.

Researchers at Royal Crial College London, with the help of the government, have made a real-time assessment of the community transition, or Reaction, Study in England from early summer. Part of the project focuses on community coronavirus antibody levels, asking people to use home tests to collect finger prick blood samples. This week, on the preprint website Madrexive, researchers Published Preliminary data from the study, which included more than 350,000 residents.

In late June, they found that about 6% of the volunteers tested positive for these antibodies. But in September, that number dropped to 4.4%.

“On the balance of evidence, I would say that what we know about other coronaviruses, it seems that immunity is declining at the same rate as antibody depletion, and this is a sign of immunosuppression at the population level,” said the head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London. Wendy Barclay, Said Journalists at a conference announcing the results this week.

Barclays is correct in pointing out that over time our immunity to other coronaviruses weakens. Experts have long speculated that this may be due to the corovirus that causes Covid-19 at some point. But other than that, any one disease can be a difficult tumor to immunize. And although these results may be tangible, given the size of the larger sample, the instructions for our immunity to Covid-19 are not so clear.

For one, it is perfectly normal to look at antibody levels for any microbial drop over time. So seeing this decline in the last three months, by itself, is not proof that immunity will go away in that period. Another consideration is that not all antibodies are the same. The most important are called neutralizing antibodies, because they can directly prevent something like coronavirus from infecting new cells. Even if the levels of antibodies to our coronavirus drop in the short term, many of us may have enough neutral antibodies to stop prolonged reinfection.

This afternoon, a new study shows that what happened is happening a lot. Learning, Published In science, 20,000,000 New Yorkers looked at antibody levels when diagnosed with mild to moderate covid-1. Three months after infection, researchers continued to find a stable level of neutralization of antibodies in more than 90% of their volunteers; In a subset of volunteers seen five months after his illness, the level dropped only slightly.

The authors wrote, “Although these do not provide conclusive evidence that these antibody responses protect against re-infection, we believe it is likely that they will reduce the likelihood of re-determination barriers.”

There are such experts Said Previously, a person’s current antibody levels were not the only relevant factor in detecting immunity. Our immune system also contains memory B cells, which awaken the rest of the immune system to detect when the organism reappears, including an increase in antibody production. This usually results in a very rapid immune response the second time around. On top of that, there are some T cells that “remember” the microbe of the past and come into action when it tries to revive us. These other ingredients may not completely prevent re-alignment with the coronavirus, but they will usually make the second infection easier for the body to handle.

All of this is very complex, and there is a lot about our immune response to the coronavirus that we are just beginning to understand (not to mention how these responses will affect the effectiveness of the vaccine).. Unfortunately, there have been many reports of re-confirmation in many countries, including the US Some But in most of these cases, the person did not look like another bullet, and at least one person has died from their recurrence. But many experts do not believe that these redirects are happening on the mess right now, however, the data needed to confirm how often it is happening is still missing.

The main remedy here is that we should be careful not to jump to conclusions about any scary-sounding antibody study. It is still true that the target for “mob immunity” is a Ridiculous and dangerous The idea, but more because it will lead to lots of preventable death and illness, not because we will re-infect everyone in a few months.

Really, like me Noticed In June, the most present fear of Covid-19 is the first round of infection. U.S. Now in the midst of the third great peak of the epidemic, most Americans – and indeed the world – Did not Covid-19 caught yet. Hopefully, most of us will never.