Mild COVID-19 Infection Leaves Lifelong Antibody Protection

"NMCSD Microbiology Laboratory" ( Public domain) by Navy Medicine

A new study suggests that even mild cases of COVID-19 could leave people with lifetime protection against the virus. They also called the previous reports suggesting that immunity is not lifelong a “misrepresentation.”

A Closer Look at the Study

According to a study published on May 24 by the School of Medicine in Washington University, people who got infected by coronavirus could have lifelong immunity from the virus.

This conclusion was arrived at after researchers studied bone marrow samples. These bone marrow samples were taken from participants already engaged in providing blood samples at three-month intervals. The interval starts from a month after the first COVID-19 infection. 

Bone marrow samples between seven and eight months after the first coronavirus infection were then taken; after which, five participants again gave bone marrow samples four months later. 

The team of researchers compared these samples given and compared them with 11 samples of people who had never been infected with coronavirus. 

According to research, although the levels of antibody in people who had been infected with COVID-19 immediately dropped within the first few months, there were still some antibodies that can be detected 11 months after contracting the virus. 

“BFN Project Leader Nicolas Abatzoglou`s Laboratory” (CC BY 2.0) by BiofuelNet Canada

On top of this, in 15 of the bone marrow samples given, researchers also discovered antibody-producing cells that specifically target the virus that caused COVID-19 infections. The same cells were also present in five of the follow-up samples that were provided four months later. 

According to researchers, these cells are “quiescent.” They added that they were just stored in the bone barrow as they produce antibodies. 

Mainstream media “misinterpretation” of data

Then, in a news release, Ali Ellebedy, Ph.D., an expert in pathology and immunology and molecular biology, made a statement. He said that last fall, there were reports circulated that the antibodies acquired by people who contracted COVID-19 “wane quickly.” The mainstream media interpreted this report to mean that immunity is not lifelong. 

However, he said that the reports circulated were a “misinterpretation of the data.” He added that it is normal for the levels of antibodies to go down after experiencing a severe infection. Yet, the antibodies do not go down to zero. In fact, they plateau. 

Dr. Ali Ellebedy then mentioned the antibody-producing cells they found in people 11 months after contracting the virus. He added that these cells would live to keep producing antibodies for the rest of their lives. He said that this is strong evidence for long-lasting immunity. 

The researchers added that it is unclear if those who experienced severe infection would produce the same lifelong immunity. He added that too much inflammation could, however, lead to a “defective” immune response.

Dr. Ellebedy then called other researchers to replicate the study they did with people who experienced moderate to severe coronavirus infections. He also called those who are currently studying whether the vaccines induced lifelong antibody-producing cells.