COVID-19 patients without symptoms may have lower immunity against virus –Research
Research assistant, Harry Henri, works with live COVID-19 specimens . File photo: AFP
People who got infected with COVID-19 but did not show symptoms may have significantly lower levels of immunity against the virus than those who become severely ill, new research showed on Thursday.
Researchers based in China compared two groups of individuals infected with COVID-19 in Chongqing’s Wanzhou district: 37 who showed symptoms versus 37 who did not.
The researchers analysed blood samples from both groups taken a few weeks after recovering and found that just 62.2 per cent of the asymptomatic group had short-term antibodies, compared with 78.4 per cent of symptomatic patients.
Authors of the study, which was published in Nature Medicine, said their findings called into question the idea that everyone who has had coronavirus is immune to future infection.
“These data might indicate the risks of using COVID-19 ‘immunity passports’ and support the prolongation of public health interventions, including social distancing, hygiene, isolation of high-risk groups and widespread testing,” they wrote.
Danny Altmann, a spokesman for British Society for Immunology as well as a professor of Immunology at Imperial College London, said the research raised a vital question for combatting COVID-19.
“Much immunology data so far has come from analysing the sickest, hospitalised patients, but most people who have been more mildly affected will want to know whether this is likely to have conferred lasting protective immunity,” he said.
Altmann said it was “an important and potentially worrying point” that many patients in the study showed a significant decline in antibody levels in just two months.
“Though this is quite a small sample size of patients, it is in line with some concerns that natural immunity to coronaviruses can be quite short-lived,” said Altmann, who was not involved in the research.