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article imageLow risk of coronavirus reinfection for 'several months'

By Tim Sandle     Feb 26, 2021 in Science
New data suggests that acquired immunity from a coronavirus infection produces antibodies that protect a person from reinfection over a period of time. This makes the case for wider testing.
Research from the U.S. indicates that individuals who gave been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, continue to be protected from being re-infected with the virus for a few months. The research therefore accounts for why reinfection rates are low.
The research falls into the area of 'seroprotection' (reaching a specific antibody titer), which involves determining the effect of antibody positivity on subsequent infection rates. This type of testing does not indicate whether a person is actively infected with the virus. However it can inform as to whether a person has been infected previously. So this presents a means to tell medics who has been exposed to the virus and who is therefore possibly immune.
While the results show there is a degree of antibody protection, it is not known (yet) how long this lasts for and whether the characteristics of different patients plays a role in determining the degree of protection or how long the protection lasts for. Other findings suggest that 'natural' immunity last for between five and seven months (the immunity from the vaccine is a different matter, and this is another area of uncertainty).
The finding suggests that wider testing of the public should remain a priority for governments, in order to understand the viral spread through the population and to allow data to be fed into track-and-trace systems. The data also shows why it is important for governments to continue to invest in serological testing and associated technologies.
This news is also of importance in the context of viral mutations. All viruses mutate and SARS-CoV-2 is no exception. Some of the mutations appear to be more infectious, which is a product of increased viral load, tissue distribution of virus replication, and serial interval.
The findings have been reported to the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The research paper is "Association of SARS-CoV-2 Seropositive Antibody Test With Risk of Future Infection."
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