In the latest coronavirus news, scientists share new and encouraging findings about the body’s immune response to COVID-19. Read on to learn more.
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Coronavirus News: New Findings on COVID-19 Immunity
Understanding the Immune System
Scientists are very interested in figuring out the body’s immune response to COVID-19. The body’s immune response against the virus will have important implications on the development of vaccines and the possibility of establishing herd immunity.
There’s a lot of talk surrounding antibodies and how long these antibodies can last in the body, but the body’s immune response is more complex than that. The immune system consists of a variety of soldiers that mount a defense in different ways.
Here are a few examples of immune system soldiers and the way they attack invaders:
- Antibodies – proteins that can attach themselves to the surface of invaders and keep them from infecting other cells.
- T cells – cells that trigger the self-destruction of infected cells.
- B cells – a type of white blood cell that can adapt to antibodies.
- Cytokines – proteins that respond to invaders by triggering inflammation.
It’s important to remember that antibodies won’t last forever. Unlike the other soldiers, antibodies are proteins and not cells. This means that it can’t replicate itself, and it’ll eventually disappear from the bloodstream in a few weeks after they appear.
Antibodies should appear soon after an invader (like the coronavirus) makes its way into the body. Once the body is on the mend, the antibodies and most of the B cells that create them slowly disappear.
A body can keep some of the B cells, though. These B cells can stay in the bloodstream or bone marrow for years. The body uses these B cells to make the same antibodies if there’s a threat of re-infection.
COVID-19 Immune Response: What Experts Know So Far
In a new study, scientists learn that T cells, B cells, and antibodies against the coronavirus persist for months after the initial infection. In fact, older studies also show that these antibodies continue to attack the low levels of coronavirus that remain in the bloodstream even after recovery.
The initial findings suggest that there is an initial decline in antibody concentration. Still, researchers observe that it can maintain low antibody levels for three months after the initial infection. They believe that antibodies’ presence indicates that there may be relevant B cells stored in the bone marrow.
They also examined the blood of people who recovered from COVID-19. Symptom-free and months after the initial infection, researchers were still able to isolate coronavirus-targeting T cells.
On top of that, they ran a few experiments and re-introduced the coronavirus into the blood samples. The T cells responded by sending out defense signals and replicating themselves to fight the invaders.
The T cell findings are especially encouraging because it shows that the body may be able to mount a defense against COVID-19 even if there aren’t any detectable antibodies. This provides preliminary evidence of some protection against the virus in the event of re-infection.
People can keep on catching other viral illnesses, like the flu, because they mutate quickly. When the virus mutates, the body won’t be able to recognize it and mount a defense. Unlike the flu, though, the coronavirus doesn’t appear to evolve as rapidly.
Interestingly, these findings are based on blood samples of people who did not have a severe virus case. So just because the symptoms were mild, it doesn’t mean that the body forgets more easily.
This is good news because the majority of the population that gets COVID-19 only suffer mild symptoms. The initial studies’ results are very promising, but scientists still have a lot to learn about the long-term effects of the virus.
Limitations of New Findings
It’s important to remember that the research on COVID-19 is still relatively new. Scientists can’t make promises about a long-term immune response because they don’t have enough information.
They need to learn more about re-infection cases. On top of that, they also need more time to track long-term immune responses.
It’s also important to note that these findings may differ significantly from hospitalized COVID-19 patients and asymptomatic individuals. Other researchers continue to study the virus’s immune system effects across a wide range of infection responses.
While these new studies imply that individuals who recovered from mild symptoms may have a good chance of fighting off a re-infection threat, other scientists caution against overextending these preliminary findings. Individual differences can vary significantly, and there are many factors to consider when predicting immunity.
How to Stay Safe
The new studies give some scientists a glimmer of hope. Proof of a lasting immune response is good news for vaccine developers, but there’s still a lot left to uncover.
As scientists continue their research, it’s essential to protect yourself and others from infection. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Always wash your hands. Scrub your hands at least 20 seconds with soap and rinse with water. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
- Cough and sneeze correctly. Use the inside of your elbow to cover your mouth and nose whenever you sneeze or cough. Wash or sanitize your hands after sneezing or coughing.
- Disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly. After cleaning high-touch areas, use a household disinfectant.
- Wear a mask in public. Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when you’re out in public. This is especially important in crowded areas.
- Maintain social distance. Stay six feet away from people you don’t live with or people who are sick.
It’s also essential to monitor your health and consult a doctor if you start exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms. In order to prevent further transmission, it’s best to consult a doctor via telemedicine.
You don’t even have to leave your house with Stream MD to get screened by a doctor for COVID-19. Visit their website to learn more about their services.
What worries you the most about COVID-19? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
- The New York Times: Scientists See Signs of Lasting Immunity to Covid-19, Even After Mild Infections