Coronavirus: People can become immune if they get it, but how long for?

Contracting the coronavirus COVID-19 could make you immune to it but it may not be forever.

It has been assumed there's no threat of getting coronavirus a second time due to a person's body producing antibodies to fight off the infection and building a natural immunity.

While it appears to be true in the majority of cases, some reports around the world suggest otherwise.

Speaking to The New York Times, microbiologist Florian Krammer said if someone did contract COVID-19 for a second time, the symptoms would likely be milder.

On Thursday, Reuters reported about a new blood test offering the chance to find out who may have immunity. The test is said to be a potential game-changer in the battle to contain infections.

Krammer has described the test as a "super nice tool". He told The NYT it should bring "basically, a yes or no answer, like an HIV test - you can figure out who was exposed and who wasn't".

Months of immunity

On Monday (local time), Dr Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said simple, finger-prick antibody tests could play an important role in the fight against COVID-19.

"Some are developed now. We are looking at the ones in Singapore," Dr Birx told reporters on Monday. "We are very quality-oriented. We don’t want false positives."

The Straits Times reported that researchers at the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School said they quickly developed one antibody test that had about 90 percent accuracy and later introduced a more sophisticated version that was more reliable.

Infectious disease experts say immunity against COVID-19 may last for several months and perhaps a year or more based on their studies of other coronaviruses, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in 2003.

However, they caution that there is no way to know precisely how long immunity would last with COVID-19, and it may vary from person to person.

"You are likely to have immunity for several months," said Dr Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa.

"We just don’t know. This is an incredibly important question."

Dr Perlman said many of the new antibody tests coming on the market now may be highly effective, but researchers want to see data to back that up.

"You want them to be sensitive enough to detect everyone who has had the infection," he said. 

Reuters / Newshub.

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