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Patients who beat coronavirus may lose immunity within months: Study

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PARIS: Patients who recover from coronavirus infections may lose immunity to reinfection within months, according to research released yesterday that experts said could have a "significant" influence on how governments manage the pandemic.

In the first study of its kind, a team led by researchers from King's College London examined the levels of antibodies in more than 90 patients and how they changed over time.

Blood tests showed that even individuals with only mild Covid-19 symptoms mounted some immune response to the virus. Of the group, 60 per cent showed a "potent" viral response in the first few weeks after infection.

However, after three months, only 16.7 per cent had high levels of neutralising antibodies. And after 90 days, several patients had no detectable antibodies.

When the body encounters a danger such as a virus, it mobilises cells to track down and kill the culprit. As it does so, it produces proteins known as antibodies that are programmed to target the specific antigen the body is fighting, like a key cut for a particular lock.

As long as someone has enough antibodies, they will be able to snub out new infections, giving them immunity.

But yesterday's research suggested that immunity cannot be taken for granted and may not last more than a few months, as is true with other viruses such as influenza.

Experts said the findings may change how governments plan for the next phase of the pandemic, including how they fund and organise vaccine research and development.

"This is an important study that starts to define the longer-term dynamics of the antibody response to Sars-CoV-2," said molecular oncology Professor Lawrence Young. "It further emphasises the need for us to better understand what a protective immune response looks like if we are to develop an effective vaccine."

Honorary clinical lecturer at Warwick Medical School James Gill said the research reiterated the need for everyone to continue taking safety measures.

"If you played the lottery and won £10, you wouldn't immediately think you had acquired increased luck and use your life savings to buy further lottery tickets." - AFP