COVID-19 Antibodies Can Attack the Body Instead of the Virus

Elias Hubbard
October 29, 2020

According to Reuters, the study, conducted by Scientists at Imperial College London, suggests that protection after infection with the virus "may not be long-lasting", indicating the possibility of "waning immunity in the community".

The research comes as Britain announced 102 new deaths of people with Covid-19, bringing its official total to nearly 45,000, the highest toll in Europe.

The study, conducted by Imperial College London and published Tuesday, involved tests on more than 365,000 British people between June 20 and September 28.

But experts say the results aren't the "be all and end all" because there are several other immune responses at play.

A major study led by Imperial College London, involving 365,000 participants in England and conducted between 20 June and 28 September, showed the number of people testing positive for antibodies fell by over 25 percent across the study period - from nearly roughly six percent to 4.4 percent. (The study has not yet been peer reviewed).

Scientists at Imperial College London have tracked antibody levels in the population in England following the first wave of COVID-19 infections in March and April.

Elliott added that it remains unclear what level of immunity antibodies provide, if at all, and for how long this immunity might last.

What else did the study find?

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There was no change in the levels of antibodies seen in health-care workers, possibly due to repeated exposure to the virus.

A woman in a face mask walks past London telephone boxes
The UK has recorded a surge in COVID-19 deaths as the region battles a second wave in the pandemic

If a person tests positive for antibodies, it means they were once infected.

The rapid waning of antibodies did not necessarily have implications for the efficacy of vaccine candidates now in clinical trials, Imperial's Barclay said.

"If antibodies stay high over a long period of time that is reassuring, it is not guaranteed [that you are immune to the virus] but it's reassuring", Dr Senanayake said. IgG antibodies develop later, and often indicate a past infection.

Researchers noted that immunity to the novel coronavirus "is complex, and may be assisted by T cells, as well as B cells that can stimulate the quick production of antibodies following re-exposure to the virus", the report said.

"Immunity is waning quite rapidly, we're only three months after our first [round of tests] and we're already showing a 26 per cent decline in antibodies", said Professor Helen Ward.

Antibodies would be expected to decline over time, as they do with other coronaviruses, like the common cold, but how fast and how far they fall is unknown for Covid-19.

Scaled up to a nationwide level, it meant the proportion of the English population with antibodies dropped from 6.0 per cent to 4.4 per cent, according to the study.

Alexander Edwards, from the University of Reading, says decreasing antibody levels are not necessarily the same as losing immunity, pointing out that antibody levels naturally decrease as people recover from an infection.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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