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Don’t worry about the latest coronavirus antibody research



In the early voting on October 28, 2020, people voted at the Brooklyn Armory in New York.

In the early voting on October 28, 2020, people voted at the Brooklyn Armory in New York.
photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

Early data from an ongoing study in the UK triggered alarms about the epidemic this week. It found evidence that the level of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the general population of England dropped sharply during the summer, which raised concerns that the immunity of covid-19 might gradually weaken in just three months.

Although the findings of this study are meaningful, they are not as scary as they seem. These studies alone cannot tell us whether immunity will disappear quickly, and importantly, antibodies are not the only factor in determining immunity to infectious diseases such as covid-19. Other studies, including the one just published today, have shown that our most important antibodies against covid-19 are not as dangerous as the British study suggests.

Researchers at Imperial College London conducted a real-time assessment of community transmission with the help of the government, or reaction, Studying in the UK from summer. Part of the project looks at the level of antibodies against the coronavirus in the community by asking people to use a take-home test to collect finger prick blood samples.This week, the researchers posted on the preprint website medRxiv Published The preliminary data of the study involved 350,000 residents.

They discovered in late June that about 6% of volunteers tested positive for these antibodies. But by September, this number dropped to 4.4%.

“Based on the balance of evidence, I want to say that as far as the other coronaviruses we know, it seems that immunity is falling at the same rate as antibodies, which shows that immunity is weakening at the population level,” Imperial College Infected Wendy Barclay, Dean of the Department of Diseases, tell The reporter was at the meeting this week to announce the results.

Barclays is absolutely right to point out that our immunity to other coronaviruses will gradually disappear over time. Experts have long said that the same happens with the coronavirus that causes covid-19. But beyond that, immunity to any specific disease may be difficult to resolve. Although these results may be reliable due to the large sample size, the impact on our immunity to covid-19 is not yet clear.

On the one hand, it is completely normal to see the level of antibodies against any recent bacteria decline over time. Therefore, just seeing the decline in the past three months does not prove that immunity will disappear during that period. Another consideration is that not all antibodies are the same. The most important ones are called neutralizing antibodies, because they can directly prevent things like coronavirus from infecting new cells. Even if our coronavirus antibody levels drop in a short period of time, most of us may still have enough neutralizing antibodies to prevent reinfection for a longer period of time.

Just this afternoon, a new study seemed to indicate that something was happening. the study, Published In the journal Science, researchers investigated the antibody levels in 30,000 New Yorkers diagnosed with mild to moderate covid-19. Three months after infection, researchers continued to find stable levels of neutralizing antibodies in more than 90% of volunteers. Among the volunteers seen after five months of illness, the level dropped only slightly.

The authors wrote: “Although this does not provide conclusive evidence that these antibody responses can prevent reinfection, we believe that they are likely to reduce the chance of reinfection.”

As an expert tell Before Gizmodo, a person’s current antibody level was not the only relevant factor in understanding immunity. Our immune system also has memory B cells, which wake up the rest of the immune system when they detect the re-emergence of bacteria, including increased antibody production. This usually results in a faster second immune response. Most importantly, certain T cells “remember” past bacteria and act when they try to reinfect us. These other ingredients may not completely prevent the reinfection of the coronavirus, but they should generally make the second infection easier for the body to deal with.

All of this is very complicated, and we have many immune responses to the coronavirus, and we are only now beginning to understand (not to mention how these responses will affect the effectiveness of the vaccine). Unfortunately, there have been multiple reports confirming reinfection in multiple countries, including the United States. some But not in most cases, the person was seriously ill during the second return flight, and at least one person died due to reinfection. However, many experts do not believe that these reinfections are now occurring on a large scale, although the data needed to confirm their frequency is still very lacking.

The main conclusion here is that we should proceed with caution when drawing conclusions about any scary-sounding antibody research.Indeed, the goal for “herd immunity” is Ridiculous and dangerous The idea, but more importantly, this will lead to many preventable deaths and diseases, not because we will be reinfected with all viruses in a few months.

Indeed, as I Noticed In June, the most serious danger of the covid-19 virus was still the first wave of infections.Although the United States is now at the height of the third pandemic, the vast majority of Americans (and people around the world) still not yet Covid-19 was captured. Hope most of us never will.


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