When COVID-19 began to get general attention worldwide after blowing up from being a local problem in China, there were some understandable fears. Was it a deadly virus? Yes, as the late-2019 deaths in Wuhan could attest. But catching COVID was no death sentence either. So if a patient recovered then he was made immune? Apparently not, but the antibody buildup from his previous infection could protect him from catching it again so soon. From this was the basis of recovered COVID patients donating plasma for research on a cure or vaccine. Then how long do COVID-19 antibodies protect a person from a repeat infection?
As Inquirer.net tells it, a patient newly recovered from a bout with COVID-19 can, under the best circumstances, enjoy around six months of protection thanks to the antibodies he has built up against this pandemic-level viral infection. That at least is what a study conducted in the UK has determined, noted in the report they released Wednesday, January 3. UK Biobank chief scientist Prof. Naomi Allen notes, “The vast majority of people retain detectable antibodies for at least six months after infection with the coronavirus.”
The study covered populations in Britain that were hit by COVID. The first measure was in levels of previous infection. The second was in persistence, or the duration of antibodies remaining in a recovered person before disappearing with the lack of coronavirus presence. The test subjects, former COVID patients, showed a remarkable slow rate of antibody decline; after three months 99 percent of the subjects still had anti-COVID antibodies, while 88 percent still had these after six months. To Allen the results, while not definitive in regards to COVID immunity, shows that antibodies gained from “natural infection” can protect against subsequent infection for at least half a year. Thus, it would be rare for a recovered patient to relapse quickly.
Prof. Allen adds that the UK Biobank study on antibodies for COVID showed consistent results with other research conducted in Britain as well as Iceland. These prior studies focused on UK health workers who were infected and recovered, showing their antibody protection as holding for several months. But while recovered patients are safe, there is still a risk that they might carry the virus in their person, and thus spread it unwittingly to others. Therefore, safety and protocol adherence are still necessary for the recovered.
Image courtesy of BBC