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Covid-19 News

Covid-19 antibodies diminish over time, but experts say there’s no reason to be alarmed

Most experts agree that drops in antibody levels over time are expected, and that these declines are not altogether concerning.

By Denise Chow
October 30, 2020

Coronavirus antibodies may provide protection against reinfections even if they wane over time, according to experts, who say people shouldn’t be alarmed by recent studies that had seemingly contradictory results.

Antibodies and other immune responses have been a major focus of coronavirus research because there are important implications for how long people could be protected before a vaccine is available. If antibodies confer immunity that is long-lasting, for example, people who have been infected may be protected until there is a viable vaccine. But waning antibodies could mean that Covid-19 survivors may be at risk of reinfection.

A pair of studies released this week raised some confusion because of their divergent findings. One paper published in the journal Science, led by scientists in New York, found that Covid-19 antibodies developed by the immune system lingered at stable levels for around five months. But two days earlier, a preprint study that has yet to be peer-reviewed, found that among hundreds of thousands of participants across England, antibody levels declined rapidly, falling more than 26 percent over a three-month period.

Most experts agree that drops in antibody levels over time are expected, and that these declines are not altogether concerning.

“If you think about basic immunology, you should have an antibody response initially and then that antibody response should go away,” said Ritesh Tandon, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, who was not involved with either study. “Antibodies are dynamic — they are not made one time and stay in the blood.”

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