The risk of re-infection with Covid-19 is significantly reduced up to 10 months after an initial infection, according to a new study.
Researchers in the UCL-led Vivaldi study found that residents of nursing homes with a previous infection between October last year and February this year were 85% less infected than residents who had never been infected.
According to the study, employees with a previous infection were 60% less likely than employees who did not have the infection before.
According to the researchers, this showed strong protection in both groups, but warned that the two percentages may not be directly comparable as staff may have accessed tests outside of the nursing home, resulting in positive tests not being included in the study were.
Additionally, residents who tested positive for antibodies are likely to represent a particularly robust group as they survived the first wave of the pandemic.
The main author Dr. Maria Krutikov of the UCL Institute of Health Informatics said: “It is really good news that a natural infection will protect against re-infection during this time.
“The risk of being infected twice seems to be very low.
“The fact that previous Covid-19 infection offers care home residents a high level of protection is reassuring given past concerns that these individuals may have less robust immune responses as they age.
“These results are particularly important as this vulnerable group has not been the focus of much research.”
The researchers looked at coronavirus infection rates in more than 2,000 nursing home residents and employees between October and February.
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They compared those who had evidence of previous infection detected by antibody tests up to 10 months previously with those who were not previously infected.
For the study, antibody blood tests were performed on 682 residents (with an average age of 86 years) and 1,429 employees in 100 nursing homes in England in June and July last year after the first wave of the pandemic.
About a third tested positive for antibodies, suggesting they were previously infected.
The researchers then analyzed the results of the participants’ PCR tests, which began about 90 days after the blood sample was drawn, to ensure the tests did not detect the original infection.
PCR tests were performed once a week for staff and once a month for residents, with further testing in the event of an outbreak.
Positive tests were only included if they were more than 90 days apart, to ensure that the same infection was not included more than once.
According to the results of the antibody tests, of the 634 previously infected people, reinfections only occurred in four residents and 10 employees.
Of the 1,477 participants who had never been infected, 93 residents and 111 employees had positive PCR tests.
The study excluded the effects of vaccination by excluding participants from the analysis 12 days after their first vaccination dose.
It was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and included researchers from the University of Birmingham, Public Health England, Palantir Technologies UK and Four Seasons Healthcare Group.