What We Know About Covid-19 Antibodies Is Changing. Here's What's New.

Colleen Travers
·2 min read

So much has changed since the first cases of the coronavirus emerged earlier this year, with masks and social distancing now becoming the norm of everyday life (or they should be, anyway). But perhaps the most fluid part of the pandemic has been in trying to understand and predict the virus’ life span to begin with.

“This is such a complex disease that even immunologists can’t fully know everything about it,” said Christine Bishara, an internal medicine physician and founder ofFrom Within Medical in New York.

One of the areas that’s been confusing most recently is Covid-19 antibodies ― proteins found in the blood that signal if you’ve had a past infection and therefore have built up immunity from the virus. Here, experts explain how the knowledge around antibodies has changed, how accurate tests are and what the latest research behind antibodies tells us about a future vaccine.

Antibodies do disappear, but it’s completely normal

“When our body is exposed to a virus, it goes through a very complex immune response, which includes different types of cells including B cells and T cells,” Bishara said. T cells help regulate the activity of B cells, while it’s the B cells that produce the antibodies that attach to cells that have been infected by a virus.

However, these antibodies take time to appear once you’ve been infected with any virus, including the coronavirus.

“It typically takes one to three weeks to see antibodies,” said Steven Schnur, a cardiologist and internist at Mount Sinai Medical in Miami and founder of Imhealthytoday.org, a doctor-designed programme for helping workplaces reopen from the pandemic safely. “Once they do appear, antibodies tend to wane after three months.”

But this doesn’t mean that once antibodies start vanishing you’re no longer immune to the coronavirus. That’s because those B cells and T cells that have been created in response to the virus have long-lasting memory and immunity, regardless of...

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