People who have had coroanvirus may be able to catch the virus again within months, according to new research.
The study by King’s College London looked at the immune responses of patients and healthcare workers from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust. The research, which has not yet been peer reviewed, found that there was a quick decline in the levels of antibodies after people have successfully fought off the virus.
If people are quickly able to become reinfected with the disease it could have serious impacts for any plans for herd immunity or a vaccine.
Dr Katie Doores, lead author on the study, told The Guardian: “People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around.
“Infection tends to give you the best-case scenario for an antibody response, so if your infection is giving you antibody levels that wane in two to three months, the vaccine will potentially do the same thing.
“People may need boosting and one shot might not be sufficient.”
This research was the first longitudinal study of its kind and the blood tests revealed that only 17% of people retained the high levels of antibodies three months later with antibody levels falling to the level where they became undetectable.
Professor Jonathan Heeney, a virologist at the University of Cambridge, also told The Guardian that the study “puts another nail in the coffin of the dangerous concept of herd immunity”.
He said he “cannot underscore how important it is that the public understands that getting infected by this virus is not a good thing”.
It is not all bad news.
Antibodies are not the only way to fight the virus and our immune systems are very complex. Researchers at the University of Manchester wrote that people may better equipped to fight off the virus even if they are not immune from it a second time around.
They will still be able to pass it on to other people.