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Immune System Of Recovered COVID-19 Patients May Evolve To Fight Coronavirus Variants: Study

A new study has noted that antibodies are produced by immune cells that keep evolving, apparently due to a continued exposure to remnants of the virus hidden in the gut tissue

Immune System Of Recovered COVID-19 Patients May Evolve To Fight Coronavirus Variants: Study
Highlights
  • Our immune system remembers the virus: Experts
  • Previous studies have shown antibodies drop with time, say experts
  • Memory B cells in the immune system protect from reinfections: Experts

New York: People who recover from COVID-19 are protected against the novel coronavirus for at least six months, and likely much longer, according to a study which says the immune system evolves long after the infection and may block even mutant forms of the virus such as the South African variant. The research, published in the journal Nature, noted that antibodies are produced by immune cells that keep evolving, apparently due to a continued exposure to remnants of the virus hidden in the gut tissue. According to the scientists, including those from Rockefeller University in the US, the study provides the “strongest evidence yet” that the immune system “remembers” the virus and, remarkably, continues to improve the quality of antibodies even after the infection has waned.

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They suspect that when recovered patients next encounters the virus, the response would be both faster and more effective, preventing reinfection.

This is really exciting news. The type of immune response we see here could potentially provide protection for quite some time, by enabling the body to mount a rapid and effective response to the virus upon re-exposure, says Michel C. Nussenzweig, a co-author of the study from Rockefeller University.

While antibodies against the coronavirus linger in the blood plasma for several weeks or months, earlier studies have shown that their levels significantly drop with time. However, the researchers showed that instead of producing antibodies all the time, the immune system creates memory B cells that recognise the coronavirus, and quickly unleash a new round of antibodies when they encounter it a second time.

Also Read: Experts Appeal Taking COVID-19 Vaccine Shot To Break The Chain Of Transmission And Avoid Another Peak

Since the novel coronavirus replicates in the cells of the lungs, upper throat, and small intestine, they suspect that residual viral particles hiding within these tissues could be driving the evolution of memory B cells. In the current study, the scientists studied the antibody responses of 87 individuals at two timepoints — one month after infection, and then again six months later.

Although antibodies were still detectable by the six-month point, their numbers had markedly decreased, with lab experiments revealing that the ability of the participants’ plasma samples to neutralise the virus was reduced by five-fold. In contrast, the researchers found that the patients’ memory B cells — specifically those that produce antibodies against the coronavirus — did not decline in number.

These cells also slightly increased in some cases, the study noted. The scientists also discovered that the memory B cells had gone through numerous rounds of mutation even after the infection resolved. As a result, the antibodies they produced were much more effective than the originals, the study noted.

According to the researchers, these antibodies were better able to latch on tightly to the virus, and could recognise even mutated versions of it.

The overall numbers of memory B cells that produced antibodies attacking the Achilles’ heel of the virus, known as the receptor-binding domain, stayed the same. That’s good news because those are the ones that you need if you encounter the virus again,” said Christian Gaebler, another co-author of the study.

Also Read: Study Sheds More Light On Role Played By Immune System’s T Cells Against Coronavirus

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

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