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Once a person develops immunity against COVID-19, it could last for years, a new study suggests.
The promising research comes on the heels of the news of two vaccines with potentially remarkable effective rates — all of which combine to offer significant hope to beat back the pandemic, experts say.
Scientists at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in California found in the new study that eight months after the pandemic first surfaced in the country, most of their participant survivors still have plenty of immunity to fight off another bout of the coronavirus — indicating such a slow rate of decline in protection that it could last for years, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
“That amount of [immune] memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years,” said Dr. Shane Crotty, a co-author of the study, to the site.
The research — which was published online, although yet to be peer-reviewed — found that even those who survived the coronavirus but did not develop detectable levels of antibodies have still formed protective immune cells.
So whether immunity is built up against the virus in nature, even without significant antibodies, or developed through a future vaccine, that protection appears to be there and lasting, the scientists said.
The study backs up what previous research has shown to date but adds the weight of being the longest and most comprehensive on the subject, the Times said.
Of the few study participants who did not appear to have developed immunity against COVID-19, that could have been because their exposure to it was limited, scientists said.
A vaccine would typically help them.
At the very least, exposure appears to at least set up the body for immunity “memory,’’ meaning its protective system should kick in and significantly fight off a second attack.
“It may be terminated fast enough that not only are you not experiencing any symptoms, but you are not infectious,” said study co-author Dr. Alessandro Sette to the Times.
University of Arizona immunologist Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya added, “I don’t think it’s an unreasonable prediction to think that these immune memory components would last for years.’’
The study involved 185 people who contracted a mild form of COVID-19.
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