Health

Can humans develop immunity to novel coronavirus after being infected?

A study showed monkeys who recovered from the virus did not get infected a second time

 
Last Updated: Monday 30 March 2020

There is no cure or vaccination yet to protect against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Scientists, however, are attempting to find out a number of ways to counter the spread of the infection, including trying to better understand how humans can develop immunity against the virus (SARS-CoV-2) after being infected.

A study — yet to be peer-reviewed — showed monkeys who recovered from the virus did not get infected when they were exposed to it a second time.

The monkeys produced anti-bodies that shielded them from getting infected again, according to the study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Medical Science.

The results of the study were posted to preprint database medRxiv.

The human immune system uses memory to protect the body from getting infected for a second time by viruses like measles, chickenpox and polio.

This is because a subset of the human body’s immune system — known as the adaptive or specific immune system — has its own ‘immunological’ memory of a pathogen that may have infected the body earlier.

The adaptive immune system has a more aggressive response ready to counter the same pathogen, if it enters the body again.

Those who were infected by the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2002-03 developed an immunity against the virus for about 8-10 years.

The same was found in survivors of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, who became immune to the virus for approximately two years.

This would mean that those who survive COVID-19 would have the same form of immunity.

Doctors, however, were unsure whether such immunity would be for a short duration or lifelong.

A second bout of the disease would likely be much milder, even full immunity is not gained by the body, according to experts.

This is another reason why blood plasma from patients who recovered from COVID-19 is now being used to treat the most critical patients.

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