Leroy N. Soetoro
2020-12-27 19:24:20 UTC
Two new medical studies suggest that people who are infected once with
COVID-19 are very unlikely to test positive again for up to six months and
Researchers found that people with antibodies from natural infections were
"at much lower risk ... on the order of the same kind of protection you'd
get from an effective vaccine," of getting the virus again, said Dr. Ned
Sharpless, director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, which conducted
one of the studies.
"It's very, very rare" to get reinfected, he said.
Both studies used two types of tests. One is a blood test for antibodies,
which attach to a virus and help to eliminate it; antibodies can linger
for many months after infection. The other type of test uses nasal or
other samples to detect the virus or bits of it, suggesting current or
One study, published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine,
involved more than 12,500 health workers at Oxford University Hospitals in
the United Kingdom. Among the 1,265 who had coronavirus antibodies at the
outset, only two had positive results on tests to detect active infection
in the following six months and neither developed symptoms.
That contrasts with the 11,364 workers who initially did not have
antibodies; 223 of them tested positive for infection in the roughly six
months that followed.
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The National Cancer Institute study involved more than 3 million people
who had antibody tests from two private labs in the United States. Less
than 1% of those who initially had antibodies later tested positive for
the coronavirus, compared with 3% of those who lacked such antibodies.
"It's very gratifying" to see that the Oxford researchers saw the same
risk reduction 10 times less likely to have a second infection if
antibodies were present, Sharpless said.
His institute's report was posted on a website that scientists use to
share research and is under review at a major medical journal.
Infectious disease specialist Joshua Wolf said the findings were "not a
surprise" but were reassuring because "it tells people that immunity to
the virus is common."
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Still, antibodies themselves may not be the protection, they might just be
a sign that other parts of the immune system are able to fight off any new
exposures to the virus, Wolf said.
"We don't know how long-lasting this immunity is," Wolf added. Cases of
people getting COVID-19 more than once have been confirmed, so "people
still need to protect themselves and others by preventing reinfection."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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