The study concluded that re-infection with the unvaccinated SARS-CoV-2 virus is likely
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of uncertainty about how long immunity lasts after a non-immune person becomes infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Now a team of scientists led by faculty members at the Yale School of Public Health and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have an answer: powerful protection after natural, short-term infection.
“Re-infection can reasonably occur in three months or less, said Jeffrey Townsend, professor of biostatistics at the Yale School of Public Health and lead author of the study. Therefore, those who have contracted the infection should be vaccinated naturally. Previous infection alone can provide very little long-term protection against subsequent infection.”
The study published in The Lancet MicrobeAnd He is the first to determine the possibility of infection again after natural infection and without vaccination.
Townsend and his team analyzed re-infection and known immunologic data from close viral relatives of SARS-CoV-2 that causes the “common cold,” along with immunological data from SARS-CoV-1 and MERS. Utilizing evolutionary principles, the team was able to model the risks of a recurrence of COVID-19 infection over time.
Re-infection can, and has occurred, even shortly after recovery, the researchers said. It will become increasingly common as immunity wanes and new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge.
“We tend to think of immunity as immunity or not immunity. Our study cautions that we should instead focus more on the risk of reinfection over time, said Alex Dornberg, associate professor of bioinformatics and genomics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who co-led the study. As new variants emerge, previous immune responses become less effective in fighting the virus. Those who were naturally infected early in the epidemic are increasingly likely to become infected in the near future.”
The team’s data-driven model reveals striking similarities with the risk of re-infection over time between SARS-CoV-2 and endemic coronaviruses.
“And just like the common cold, from year to year, you may catch the virus again, Townsend said. “The difference is that during its emergence in this pandemic, COVID-19 has proven to be much more deadly.”
A hallmark of the modern world, Townsend added, will be the evolution of new threats to human health. Evolutionary biology, which provided the theoretical underpinnings for these analyzes, is traditionally considered a historical discipline.
“Nevertheless, our findings underscore its important role in informing decision-making, and provide a crucial stepping stone towards a solid knowledge of our prospects for resistance to re-infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Co-authors are researchers from Temple University. The research was funded by the US National Science Foundation.