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A new study of 30,000 COVID-19 patients shows that people produce antiviral antibodies for longer than previously thought.

This discovery will help vaccine manufacturers and researchers trying to determine whether COVID-19 survivors can be reinfected.

The lead author of this new study and the medical director of the Mount Sinai Clinical Antibody Testing Program, Ania Warnberg, said: “Some (research) reports that antibodies have dropped in the first few weeks and months. What you see.”

“We saw a slight decline, but overall it remained stable.”

This paper, published this week in the journal Science, reports that most people with mild to moderate COVID-19 have antibodies that are still effective five months after the onset of symptoms.

Approximately 92% of patients develop sufficient antibody levels to continue fighting against the new coronavirus.

Past studies have found that antibody levels seem to fall faster. Other research has focused on antibodies raised against a viral protein called NP. But it turns out that NP may not be a good method because NP has a membrane that can isolate it from the antibodies produced by the immune system.

The research team at Mount Sinai in New York focused their attention on the infamous Spike protein, which allows viral cells to attach themselves to human cells.

After measuring the antibody response of the entire 30,000 COVID-19 patients, the scientists then tracked down a smaller subset. The second group included 121 patients who continued to donate plasma to help others fight COVID-19.

When the researchers measured the antibody levels in the 121 group, they found that there was only a slight decrease between three to five months after the onset of symptoms. At about 148 days, the decline was even greater, but the antibody level was still high enough to neutralize the virus. Warnberg said the Mount Sinai team plans to follow 121 plasma donors for at least a full year.

Studies have shown that vaccine manufacturers should target Spike protein because it stimulates a much stronger immune response than NP protein.

Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health, said: “I think this is an important issue. It will help us determine the chance of people being reinfected.”

Safdar said that knowing how long antibodies can last and remain effective will also help solve an interesting question of whether people will be re-infected by the new coronavirus.

Safdar said that a small number of cases at the University of Wisconsin School of Health may involve reinfection, but emphasized that it is “difficult to prove.”

Doctors cannot determine whether patients returning to COVID-19 have been infected for the second time or if they still have residue after the first infection.

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