UArizona Heath Sciences researchers developed one of the most accurate COVID-19 antibody tests available and now have shown antibodies persist for months after infection, providing long-term immunity.
One of the most significant questions about the novel coronavirus is whether people who are infected are immune from reinfection and, if so, for how long.
To determine the answer, University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers studied the production of antibodies from a sample of nearly 6,000 people and found immunity persists for at least several months after being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We clearly see high-quality antibodies still being produced five to seven months after SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, associate professor in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson‘s Department of Immunobiology. “Many concerns have been expressed about immunity against COVID-19 not lasting. We used this study to investigate that question and found immunity is stable for at least five months.”
The resulting paper, “Orthogonal SARS-CoV-2 Serological Assays Enable Surveillance of Low Prevalence Communities and Reveal Durable Humoral Immunity,” is published in the journal Immunity. Bhattacharya and Dr. Janko Nikolich-Žugich, professor and head of the Department of Immunobiology, led the research team.
When a virus first infects cells, the immune system deploys short-lived plasma cells that produce antibodies to immediately fight the virus. Those antibodies appear in blood tests within 14 days of infection.
The second stage of the immune response is the creation of long-lived plasma cells, which produce high-quality antibodies that provide lasting immunity. Bhattacharya and Nikolich-Žugich tracked antibody levels over several months in people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. They found SARS-CoV-2 antibodies are present in blood tests at viable levels for at least five to seven months, although they believe immunity lasts much longer.
“Whether antibodies provide lasting protection against SARS-CoV-2 has been one of the most difficult questions to answer,” said UArizona Health Sciences Senior Vice President Dr. Michael D. Dake, who is a co-author on the paper. “This research not only has given us the ability to accurately test for antibodies against COVID-19, but also has armed us with the knowledge that lasting immunity is a reality.”
Read more of this story by Stacy Pigott, University of Arizona Health Sciences at https://news.arizona.edu/story/study-shows-sars-cov-2-antibodies-provide-lasting-immunity