Natural immunity to COVID-19 could decline within months, UK study suggests

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(CNN) - If you were infected with the novel coronavirus, a new study suggests that your immunity to the virus could decline within months.

The study, released on the pre-print medical server on Saturday, suggests that antibody responses start to decline after 20 to 30 days following the first time showing symptoms of COVID-19. The study also found the severity of symptoms can determine the magnitude of the antibody response.

The study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, included samples collected from 65 patients with confirmed COVID-19 up to 94 days after they started showing symptoms and from 31 health care workers who had antibody tests every one to two weeks between March and June.

Limitations of the study: More research is needed to determine whether similar results would emerge among a larger group of patients and to continue measuring antibody responses over a longer period of time.

"Whilst yet to be peer reviewed, the importance of this study is clear and the research has been rigorously undertaken. This work confirms that protective antibody responses in those infected with SARS-COV2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, appear to wane rapidly. Whilst longer lasting in those with more severe disease, this is still only a matter of months," Dr. Stephen Griffins, associate professor in the University of Leeds School of Medicine in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the new study, said in a written statement distributed by the UK-based Science Media Centre on Monday.

"Similar short-lived responses are seen against other human coronaviruses that predominantly cause only mild illness, meaning that we can be re-infected as time goes by and outbreaks can adopt seasonality. With the more serious, sometimes fatal, outcomes of SARS-COV2, this is troubling indeed," Griffins said. "Vaccines in development will either need to generate stronger and longer lasting protection compared to natural infection, or they may need to be given regularly."

According to the World Health Organization, as of last week, there were at least 21 COVID-19 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation globally.

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