Many people who get COVID-19 experience mild symptoms. If you are among this group, count yourself lucky.
But does getting modestly sick mean you will have less protection against the coronavirus in the future?
University of Michigan researchers recently put that question to the test and discovered some good news: Most patients who get a mild case of COVID-19 create antibodies that protect them from reinfection for up to six months.
For the study, published in the scientific journal Microbiology Spectrum, researchers looked at around 130 patients who were confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that emerged in 2019.
While three of the patients were hospitalized, the remainder received outpatient treatment and reported relatively mild symptoms such as headaches, chills and loss of taste or smell.
The researchers looked at the patients at both three and six months after their initial infection and found that about 90% of them produced antibody responses. All but one of the participants had persistent antibody levels when tested at follow-up.
The antibodies’ ability to reduce the risk of reinfection remained about as strong at six months as it had at three months, the study found.
The researchers concluded that despite concerns that only those with severe cases of COVID-19 produce strong antibody responses to infection, their study discovered that those with mild cases of the illness made antibodies and maintained them.
In a press release, Dr. James Baker Jr., senior author of the paper and founding director of the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center at Michigan Medicine, says:
“While some studies have suggested antibodies against COVID-19 wane over time, these findings provide strong prospective evidence for longer-term immunity for those who produce an immune response to mild infection. To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study that demonstrates such a risk reduction for clinical reinfection in this specific type of population.”
The researchers note, however, that their published research was conducted between March 2020 and February 2021, before the Delta variant became the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S.
They also note that their findings are not a reason for someone who has never been vaccinated to not get vaccinated, although people who contract COVID-19 can postpone vaccination for 90 days after their illness ends.
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