Patients who get infected with the coronavirus could be protected against the disease “for many years” afterwards, according to a groundbreaking new study.
Most people who contract Covid-19 develop “robust” levels of antibodies and immune cells, according to the researchers from La Jolla Institute in California, the US.
They still had them six to eight months later, providing immunity.
Even once they had faded, the body could “remember” Covid and protect the patient from severe illness.
The team studied blood samples from 185 men and women, aged from 19-81, who had overcome coronavirus.
Their longer-term antibodies – immunoglobulin G (IgG) – and T cells, which are tasked with killing infected cells, were both slow to decay.
Almost all of the patients developed B cells, which trigger the body's immunological memory.
Professor Shane Crotty, who led the study, said: “That amount of memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalised disease, severe disease, for many years.
“The findings have implications for immunity against Covid-19 and thus the potential future course of the pandemic.”
Lawrence Young, a professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said: “This is an important study confirming the existence of immune memory to Sars-CoV-2 but with a degree of variation from person to person.
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“This variation might be due to some individuals having had very low-level asymptomatic infection.
“The significant take home message is that the immune response to the virus is more long-lived than previously thought, and this lets us continue to hold hope that an effective vaccine will be able to induce sustained protective immunity.”
The findings were published online on bioRxiv and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
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On Wednesday, November 18 pharmaceutical firm Pfizer claimed its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective and has passed safety checks.
The drug, developed in collaboration with German partner BioNTech SE, is due to be distributed across the UK before the end of this year.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock this week told the House of Commonshe had “tasked the NHS with being ready from any date from December 1” to roll out the vaccine .
Another jab, from US firm Moderna,was shown this week in early data to be almost 95% effective .
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