Scientists find durable immunity against COVID-19 variants

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In a new study from Oregon Health & Science University, researchers found the blood of people infected by COVID-19 showed telltale signals of immunity against new variants as long as 11 months following infection

They say the current variants of concern are not likely to truly escape the immune system of people who have recovered from infection.

The team emphasizes that vaccination is the best protection against reinfection and that the vaccine is also the best protection for people who have not had COVID-19 to avoid getting infected or becoming seriously ill or dying from it.

The new findings involved testing of blood drawn from 24 people who had been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with severity ranging from asymptomatic to hospitalization at OHSU Hospital.

In the study, the team found that asymptomatic cases and some of the people with mild symptoms did not always have SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies in their blood serum.

They were able to detect patrolling immune cells—called memory B cells—that are programmed to produce SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the blood of all the people tested.

They discovered that these memory B cells not only appeared to react to the original wild-type SARS-Co-V-2 virus, but they also recognized so-called variants of concern.

The findings suggest that immune protection may endure long-term, potentially forestalling the need for vaccine booster shots.

At more than 11 months, the study is the longest post-infection period measured to date.

However, researchers say it’s not possible to definitively say whether the B cell response that researchers discovered in blood serum would correlate to an actual effective immune response in people exposed to the virus.

The authors stimulated B cells to secrete antibodies—simulating a repeat infection.

Although the antibodies appeared to recognize the variants, researchers were unable to say definitively whether the antibodies would protect against the virus variants.

If you care about the COVID, please read studies about why some people are less naturally resistant to COVID-19, and the drug that could block multiple COVID-19 variants.

For more information about the pandemic, please see recent studies about people can lose 80% of their COVID-19 immunity 6 months after Pfizer shot, and results showing that health care workers change their minds on COVID vaccinations.

The study is published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases and was conducted by Bill Messer et al.

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