Findings Renew Hope for Long-Lasting Immunity

Research shows immune cells could fight off a serious coronavirus infection for years
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2020 5:54 PM CST
Immune Cells May Fight Virus for Years, Data Suggests
A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample at a coronavirus antibody testing program in England in June.   (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)

There have been nothing but exciting breakthroughs in the development of a coronavirus vaccine in the past two weeks. But vaccines aren't available yet, and there are unknowns that concern experts, such as how long a shot will effective, an issue that could mean repeated doses will be required. Antibody research has been discouraging at times, but a new study suggests there's still hope for immunity, which could be an important part of a wide-ranging coronavirus response. A study at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology has found immunity might last many years, the New York Times reports. The study has not been peer-reviewed and was published online only, not in a scientific journal. It is, however, the deepest dive so far into immune memory involving the coronavirus.

The research data show most of the recovered patients checked still had enough immune cells to fight off the disease eight months after they were infected. The cells' slow breakdown means they could remain helpful for a long period, per the Times. "That amount of memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years," said Shane Crotty, co-leader of the study. A couple of other recent studies support the idea. One found recovered patients had effective immune cells even when antibodies could no longer be detected. Another found the cells lasting at least three months. "This is exciting news," said a Yale University immunologist, pointing out that it means the body is producing a long-lasting response to the infection, as it does with other threats. "That’s what is supposed to happen," she said. (More coronavirus stories.)

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