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Friday, 7 February 2020

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV: Healed people may not develop immunity to the virus


At a time when the coronavirus epidemic that started at the end of December in China continues to spread , virologists are trying to better understand the virus and its effects on infected people. In many cases of infections, people develop antibodies that give them immunity when the same antigen (bacteria, virus, etc.) appears again. However, in the case of the new 2019-nCoV coronavirus, virologists warn that infected people who have recovered may not have developed this immunity, as the antibodies do not persist long enough in the body.

The new coronavirus 2019-nCoV identified at the end of December has officially infected more than 30,000 people worldwide. The epidemic began in the central city of Wuhan, China. The China Health Commission said on Sunday that of the infected, 475 people have fully recovered and currently 565 have died. The rest are still being processed.



Zhan Qingyuan, director of pneumonia prevention and treatment at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said that even people who have recovered may not be immune to the virus. “For those patients who have been cured, there is a likelihood of relapse. The antibody will be generated; however, in some individuals, the antibody cannot persist long enough.”

Vaccines and antibodies: they confer immunity to infectious diseases

The largest family of coronaviruses includes the viruses that cause SARS, MERS and the common cold. Most coronaviruses cause mild to moderate upper respiratory infections, and many - including the new strain - spread to humans from animals. When a virus enters a human body, it tries to attach to and infect host cells.

Diagram explaining innate and adaptive immunities. In the case of adaptive immunity, when the antigen presents itself again, the antibodies recognize it and allow its direct destruction. Credits: Séverine Zirah


In response, our immune system produces antibodies: proteins that recognize and kill viruses. This is how humans become immune to certain diseases. Children who have contracted chickenpox, for example, are immune to the disease as adults. Vaccines are another way to build immunity.

Immunity and coronavirus 2019-nCoV: antibodies may be too weak or not persistent enough

“With many infectious diseases, a person can develop immunity against a specific strain after exposure or infection. Often this person will not fall ill again after a subsequent exposure. Regarding this specific strain of coronavirus, scientists are working to answer this question,” explains Amira Roess, professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University.

Doctors and virologists do not yet know enough about Wuhan coronavirus to know if humans develop full immunity after contracting the disease. According to Zhan, doctors aren't sure if the antibodies the patients develop are strong enough or durable enough to keep them from getting the disease again. Viruses can also mutate quickly, so immunity to one strain does not guarantee immunity to another.



Video of the intervention of virologist Zhan Qingyuan:


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