SAN ANTONIO — More studies are coming out showing that our body's immunity to the coronavirus after we recover may only last a few months. That means the odds of re-infection go up, with previous patients able to contract it more than once.
The length of time antibodies remain in the body varies by the disease. For the flu it may last for a few years, the common cold, much like the coronavirus possibly just a few months.
But with coronavirus, that lack of antibodies could prove deadly. Dr. Jan Patterson, an infectious diseases specialist and Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Quality and Lifelong Learning in the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio told us, "Antibodies are proteins that are developed in our body in response to infection or a vaccine and they basically interact with the cells so that the pathogen doesn't infect our cells and doesn't disturb our cells."
Antibodies are produced by one type of immune cell called B-cells, but we also have T-cells in our body, and these T-cells also provide immunity to the body. Dr. Patterson said, "When a pathogen or a virus is reintroduced, the T-cells have this recall, or memory immunity, that can address the infection when it happens Even though the antibodies don't last very long, it doesn't necessarily mean that we won't have an immune response."
In one study, blood samples were taken from 65 people who tested positive for the virus. The severity of the illness ranged from asymptomatic to requiring life support. More than 95 percent had antibodies. After an average of eight days, they had enough antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus, called nAbs. After 65 days only 17 percent still had potent nAbs to neutralize the virus.
Dr. Patterson says until we build up immunity, or quell this virus, we need to keep doing those safety precautions, especially young people. She told us, "Young people can still get very sick. We have young people in the hospital with COVID that are very sick so it is still a risk."