As the world grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a new study suggests that antibodies — the proteins produced by the immune system that can grant protection against reinfection — may fade in as little as two months after infection in certain people who have recovered from the virus.
The study was conducted in China and published in Nature Medicine.
Specifically, the study’s authors found that people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms may see their antibodies fade more quickly than those who tested positive for the virus and also came down with its tell-tale symptoms.
The study, though small and with limitations, provides greater insight into a topic that mystifies scientists examining this new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Most people who have recovered from COVID-19 develop antibodies, but the extent and duration of that protection remains unknown.
Researchers from Chongqing Medical University in China compared the immune responses of 37 asymptomatic people diagnosed with COVID-19 to 37 symptomatic patients in the Wanzhou District of China. Forty percent became negative for antibodies early on in their recovery, compared to just 13% of people who developed symptoms.
The asymptomatic patients also reported lower levels of cytokines, or small proteins released by different cells in the body in response to infection. These proteins, when uncontrolled, can cause hyperinflammation.
The data suggests that asymptomatic people had a weaker immune response to the virus, echoing NIAID Director Anthony Fauci’s concerns about varying antibody protection.
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In this day and age, understanding bacteria and viruses and developing vaccines are national security issues. In my view sizable part of every country’s defense budget should be spent in these pursuits rather than making tanks and other weapons.
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