A recent batch of studies, many early stage and not yet peer reviewed, show that humans have a “robust” immune response to Covid-19 that may protect them from further infection, even if they had mild symptoms. How long that protection lasts is still unclear, but the studies indicate it could last for months.
One leading immunologist says the findings provide optimism that people will not have to endure repeated coronavirus infections. It also provides evidence a vaccine might protect people for more than a short time.
“The hopes that I’ve had appear to be realized with these early studies,” said Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
One of the studies showed that T cells appear to be activated by this novel coronavirus. T cells are important immune cells that stimulate various arms of the immune system and that also attack and kill cells already infected by a virus.
Another study that looked at donor blood samples found that a big part of the population, between 20% to 50% of people in some areas of the US, may have T cells that recognize the novel coronavirus, even if that person has never been infected. It’s still unclear why people have them. It may be what’s called cross-protection from other coronaviruses that cause the common cold. What scientists still don’t know is if this provides protection against Covid-19, but it has potential.
“So, this is very good news and it’s optimistic,” Lipkin said. “You know, it is a bit of blue sky that we’ve been looking for.”
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