So many are asking if their mild COVID 19 infection protects them from getting the disease again. Some want to know if they still need a vaccine. Some just want to know if they are safe to venture out of their self-imposed bubble. Science wants to provide definitive answers rather than guesses so researchers have been testing and measuring and thinking. This group from Washington University School of Medicine believes that in the case of mild infections, immune likely lasts for many months after even a mild infection.
Because COVID 19 has left its impact on individuals and society over the past year and a half, researchers have sought to better understand this somewhat novel disease from the beginning. As always, they have taken prior knowledge and insight in how viruses work and how our immune system responds to viral disease, applying it to the current threat. Simultaneously, they keep in mind that each virus and each disease is still unique, demonstrating their own peculiarities.
From other infectious diseases, scientists and doctors know that antibodies produced in an acute infection may drop in blood levels weeks and months after the initial response but can usually be found for months to years later at low levels. This low level of antibody production continues to protect the person from reinfection in most cases and rises if the virus comes back for another visit. With a serious disease like COVID 19, everyone wants to know if they are protected from future illness by having had it once already.
So far, reinfection appears rare even though follow up testing shows that antibody levels against COVID 19 seems to drop relatively quickly in blood samples. From other research, we know that another immune cell called a T-cell provides protection in addition to the antibodies made by immune B-cells. The researchers in this highlighted study went beyond blood samples and enrolled patients willing to provide bone marrow samples months after their mild disease.
While the blood levels may be dropping months later, the bone marrow is where immune blood cells are produced, and we know that virally activated B cells travel back to the bone marrow for long term antibody production in other infections. This study showed that for patients who experienced a mild infection, their bone marrow contained COVID 19 antibody producing B cells up to 11 months after their infection. Since the virus seems to only last 2-3 weeks in a person’s body, this persistence indicates the patient is very likely immune to further infection.
As noted earlier, while we see a rare case of repeat COVID 19 infection, mild cases likely provide protection for prolonged periods. This coincides with other studies which even showed that infection with SARS CoV1, the first fearsome coronavirus causing SARS years ago, provides protection both from SARS reinfection and some protection against the current and similar COVID 19.
Helping our patients and the public live healthier more abundant lives means not only prescribing capsules, tablets, and dietary advice, but providing clear education on the health issues facing them. Knowledge about your immune status against COVID 19 allows you to make informed decisions about future vaccines, medications, and lifestyle choices. Equipping yourself with knowledge lessens the chance that you will make an unwise decision with its negative impact. We want you to be strong in body and mind and spirit.
Jackson S. Turner, Wooseob Kim, Elizaveta Kalaidina, Charles W. Goss, Adriana M. Rauseo, Aaron J. Schmitz, Lena Hansen, Alem Haile, Michael K. Klebert, Iskra Pusic, Jane A. O’Halloran, Rachel M. Presti, Ali H. Ellebedy. SARS-CoV-2 infection induces long-lived bone marrow plasma cells in humans. Nature, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03647-4
Thanks to Science Daily:
Washington University School of Medicine. “Mild COVID-19 induces lasting antibody protection, study finds: People who have had mild illness develop antibody-producing cells that can last lifetime.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210524110135.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.