Coronavirus immunity could 'last for years,' new study suggests

Coronavirus vaccine.
(Image credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

An encouraging new study conducted by several leading labs, including the La Jolla Institute of Immunology, found that most people who have recovered from a coronavirus infection within the last eight months likely have enough immune cells to fight off serious reinfections, The New York Times reports.

While it's still unclear exactly how long immunity may last, or whether it could prevent transmission (though that is certainly plausible), the new study has eased experts' concerns of short-lived protection based on studies that pointed to declining antibodies. Antibodies, after all, are just one facet of the body's complex immune system, and the new study indicated that other factors like T cells showed only a slight decay several months out from infection, while B cells, which produce new antibodies as needed, had actually grown in number in most participants.

The new findings, the Times notes, appear to line up with another recent discovery that survivors of SARS, which was also caused by a coronavirus, still carry important immune cells 17 years after infection. And while there have been cases of reinfection, they seem to be rare, per the Times.

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More studies will be required to back up the not-yet-peer-reviewed findings, but it's not "unreasonable to think that these immune memory components would last for years," Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona told the Times. It may also be another layer of good news on the vaccine front, since vaccinations typically provide better, longer-lasting protection than natural infections. If that holds true in the case of COVID-19, people would theoretically get to avoid an annual booster shot. Read more at The New York Times.

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