Coronavirus: once you have antibodies, are you safe?
Once we have the COVID-19 antibodies, are we protected for life asks Dr Connor Bamford?
Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, recently said that many groups are working on blood tests for COVID-19, adding:
“That would tell us who has had it and now has antibodies, therefore won’t catch it again.”
But is Vallance right? Once we have the antibodies, are we protected for life?
To understand the prospects and pitfalls of relying on antibodies to protect us, it helps to understand a bit about our immune system, how it behaves during a coronavirus infection, and how it could protect us in the future.
It is not strictly true that nobody who hasn’t already had COVID-19 has immunity to the disease. We do have some capacity in our bodies to protect ourselves. Also, our immune systems can learn during the infection and clear the virus from our body. This is essentially the mainstay of current treatment where COVID-19 patients are supported in the hospital while their own bodies fight the virus. Unfortunately, for too many, the virus wins this battle and they die. (At the time of writing, more than 38,000 people had died of COVID-19.)