Breakthrough infections produces ‘super immunity’ to COVID-19

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In a new study from Oregon Health & Science University, researchers found breakthrough infections greatly enhance the immune response to variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.

They found that a breakthrough infection generates a robust immune response against the delta variant.

The findings suggest that individuals who are vaccinated and then exposed to a breakthrough infection have super immunity.

The immune response is likely to be highly effective against other variants as the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to mutate.

In the study, the team found that antibodies measured in blood samples of breakthrough cases were both more abundant and much more effective—as much as 1,000% more effective—than antibodies generated two weeks following the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

This means each exposure following vaccination actually serves to strengthen the immune response to subsequent exposures even to new variants of the virus.

The team says once people are vaccinated and then exposed to the virus, they are probably going to be reasonably well-protected from future variants.

The study implies that the long-term outcome is going to be a tapering-off of the severity of the worldwide epidemic.

Vaccine immunity is currently undergoing a real-world test against the new omicron variant.

Researchers have not examined the omicron variant specifically but based on the results of this study they would anticipate that breakthrough infections from the omicron variant will generate a similarly strong immune response among vaccinated people.

The study compared blood samples collected from a total of 52 people, all employees of OHSU who were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and subsequently enrolled in the study.

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The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). One author of the study is Fikadu Tafesse, Ph.D.

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