Research ongoing on how long antibodies last in COVID-19 survivors

Yusuff Moshood

The World Health Organisation says it is still unclear how long antibodies against COVID-19 last in recovered patients, noting that none of the studies done so far has been able to clear up the contentious issue.

Recovered COVID-19 patients are expected to have immunity to the viral disease through the presence of antibodies in their system.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, antibodies are proteins produced by the body to neutralise or destroy toxins or disease-carrying organisms.

The CDC explained that recovered COVID-19 patients are normally expected to have active immunity due to their exposure to the disease as their immune system ought to produce antibodies to the disease.

However, WHO’s COVID-19 Technical Lead, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said many studies are still been conducted to establish how strong the immune response is in recovered patients.

Speaking in a video interview posted on the official Twitter handle of WHO on Sunday, Kerkove said, “Studies are underway to show how strong this immune response is and for how long these antibodies last.

“What we understand from these studies – and there are many currently underway (so we don’t have a full picture yet) is that these antibodies last for many months. Some studies show they last for six months and possibly longer.

“But we have proof from other coronaviruses that it will not be lifelong immunity”.

The WHO official said many things are still not clear about COVID-19 immunity, stressing that people must continue to adhere to preventive measures in their communities.

“As this is a new disease, we’re still learning more and more about SARS-COV-2 every day.

“What we understand is that there are individuals that can be reinfected with this virus as it is other viruses.

“We don’t know how often this is happening, but we have a number of instances from countries that reported re-infection of individuals because they have good laboratory systems and they are able to do full genome sequencing of the first infection and the subsequent infection.

“We are trying to learn more about each occurrence of re-infection and what the antibody response was in that individual at the time of the first infection and also the second infection.

“There is still so much we need to understand about occurrences of re-infection and how often it is happening and what it means for an individual patient.

“Is the second infection more severe or less severe? And what does it mean
in terms of the antibody response? So there is still a lot to learn,” she said.

The WHO official, however, reiterated the need for people to continue to adhere to public health measures that are outlined in the areas where they live.

“We don’t know how long immune response lasts, so it is important that we continue to practice physical distancing, continue to make sure that we have clean hands… and continue to wear masks where appropriate,” she said.

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