There’s more evidence that people develop broad, long-lasting immunity to coronavirus after an infection.
A new study published Monday shows people’s bodies were producing a range of antibodies for six months after recovering from infection – and they were producing the B cells that, in turn, make these antibodies – something that promises even longer-lasting immunity.
It’s the latest in a batch of studies that show people’s bodies continue to produce immune responses after infection, which lowers the risk that people can get infected with the virus over and over again.
The study, published in the journal Nature, also suggests that people produce a variety of antibodies that attack the virus from different angles. That’s good news for people worried about the emergence of new variants of the virus. Scientists are concerned that these mutations could help the virus evade either a natural immune response or a response elicited by vaccination.
The team took a close look at the blood of 87 people about six weeks after infection and then just over six months after infection.
They found, as have others, that there’s an initial spike in antibodies produces – one that dies away after a few months. But then the B-cells kick in and start making new antibodies. And not only that – they seem to make a new variety of antibodies that can act on even mutated virus.
It appears to be happening because little pieces of the virus stay in the body long after infection, helping prompt an ongoing immune response. They took samples from the intestines of some of their volunteers and found evidence these little bits – called antigens – were continuing to stimulate the immune response.
“The observation that memory B cell responses do not decay after 6.2 months, but instead continue to evolve, is strongly suggestive that individuals who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 could mount a rapid and effective response to the virus upon re-exposure,” the team lead by molecular immunologist Dr. Michel Nussenzweig at Rockefeller University in New York wrote.