If you’ve had COVID-19, protection from the virus could be ‘long-lasting’, new studies suggest

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FILE – This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. Coronaviruses, including the newest one, are named for the spikes that cover their outer surface like a crown, or corona in Latin. Using those club-shaped spikes, the virus latches on to the outer wall of a human cell, invades it and replicates, creating viruses to hijack more cells. (NIAID/NIH via AP)

(WNCN) — If you’ve been infected with a mild case of COVID-19, new studies suggest your body may make antibodies against the virus for most of your life.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri say they have identified long-lived antibody-producing cells in the bone marrow of people who have recovered from COVID-19.

According to researchers, there is evidence that immunity triggered by COVID-19 infection will be “extraordinarily long-lasting”.

“Antibodies are proteins that can recognize and help to inactivate viral particles and are a key immune defense. After a new infection, short-lived cells called plasmablasts are an early source of antibodies. But these cells recede soon after a virus is cleared from the body, and other, longer-lasting cells make antibodies: memory B cells patrol the blood for reinfection, while bone marrow plasma cells (BMPCs) hide away within bones, trickling out antibodies for decades,” according to a study published in the journal Nature.

“A plasma cell is our life history, in terms of the pathogens we’ve been exposed to,” said Ali Ellebedy, a B-cell immunologist at Washington University, who led the study, published in Nature on May 24.

Researchers tracked antibody production in 77 people who recovered from mostly mild cases of COVID-19 and found that COVID-19 antibodies plummeted four months after infection.

The reduction of antibodies slowed, researchers said, and up to 11 months after infection, antibodies that recognized the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein could still be detected.

None of the 11 people who had never had COVID-19 had such antibody-producing cells in their bone marrow, the study found.

“Last fall, there were reports that antibodies wane quickly after infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and mainstream media interpreted that to mean that immunity was not long-lived,” said Ellebedy. “But that’s a misinterpretation of the data. It’s normal for antibody levels to go down after acute infection, but they don’t go down to zero; they plateau. Here, we found antibody-producing cells in people 11 months after first symptoms. These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives. That’s strong evidence for long-lasting immunity.”

Researchers said they are now studying whether vaccination also induces long-lived antibody-producing cells.

Read the findings from the study here.

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