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Lasting immunity against COVID-19, UArizona professors helps in research

Posted at 7:00 AM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 10:00:56-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Early studies are reporting lasting immunity to COVID-19. Lasting immunity is what protects you from infections long after you cleared the first time your body experience that particular illness.

“We measured those antibodies in a lot of people. And what we're seeing is that the antibodies seem to be pretty stable and at high enough levels where they sure confer some amount of protection if you saw the virus again. So I think there's a lot of things that can go wrong with the virus early in us, in a subset of people that gets them very sick, but I think what we're seeing is that if you do recover from it, it's very likely that you're going to be immune for quite some time,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, a UArizona associate professor of immunobiology and study author.

Although he said researchers can’t predict how long the lasting immunity lasts, for this does show proof that the body is working to fend off the viruses it’s supposed to.

“I wish we had a shortcut. I wish we had some way to predict. We don't. It looks like it's a pretty normal response so far out in these later stages. And if it's anything like the first SARS Coronavirus in 2003, then I would expect that you would have at least some degree of immunity for at least a few years,” said Bhattacharya.

And within those few years, it is shown that your body may never take hold of that infection again, or if you do get infected, your cells will fight it off to where you may never realize you had it.

“And so I think those are all part of the broad spectrum of what we consider to be community and all of those. I think are perfectly plausible outcomes. And I think I feel reasonably confident saying that at least some of those mechanisms are going to be there for most people, for at least this long and probably for a few years,” said Bhattacharya.

What’s next is to keep track of those participants over a span of a couple of years, and hopefully get a few steps closer to finding a viable vaccine.

“You know what, I'm maybe cautiously optimistic on is that we can shift some of our research to how some of these vaccines are going to behave as well. I mean, they look similar to what someone who recovered from the virus infection looks like,” said Bhattacharya.

The studies’ participants were those who were infected at the start of the pandemic and four months out, people who were treated at Banner UMC, UArizona students and high risk professionals.