LONDON: People who have had COVID-19 are highly unlikely to contract it again for at least six months after their first infection, according to a British study of healthcare workers on the front line of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
The findings should provide some reassurance to the more than 51 million people worldwide infected with the pandemic, say researchers at Oxford University.
“This is very good news, because we can be confident that most people who get COVID-19 won’t get it again in the short term at least,” said David Eyre, a professor at the Nuffield Department of Population Health in Oxford . who co-led the study.
Isolated cases of redefinition with COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, raised concerns that immunity could be short-lived and that recuperated patients could quickly become ill again.
But the results of this study, conducted in a cohort of healthcare workers in the UK – who are among those at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 – suggest that cases of redefinition are likely to remain extremely rare.
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“Being infected with COVID-19 offers most people protection from redefinition for at least six months,” said Eyre. “We did not find any new symptomatic infections in any of the participants who had tested positive for antibodies.”
The study, which is part of a large staff testing program, covered a 30-week period between April and November 2020. Its results have not been peer-reviewed by other scientists but were published ahead of the review on a website MedRxiv.
During the study, 89 of 11,052 staff without antibodies developed a new symptomatic infection, while none of the 1,246 staff with antibodies developed symptomatic infection.
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Staff with antibodies were also less likely to test positive for COVID-19 without symptoms, researchers said, with 76 without antibodies testing positive, compared with only three with antibodies. All three of those were good and they didn’t develop COVID-19 symptoms, they added.
“We will continue to follow this cohort of staff carefully to see how long protection lasts and whether a previous infection affects the severity of the infection if people become infected again,” said Eyre.
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