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Coronavirus Immunity: How Can We Develop It And How Long Might It Last ?
April 06 Banepa.
Developing immunity to the coronavirus is key to daily lives returning to normal. Since the Sars-CoV-2 virus – which causes the disease Covid-19 – has been known for only a short period of time, there is much to be studied regarding humans’ immune response to it.
How is immunity to the virus developed ?
Ashley St John, an immunologist from Duke and National University of Singapore’s medical school, said that most of our information on immunity to Sars-CoV-2 has been borrowed from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) outbreaks, and that further studies were needed to verify whether it is correct.
Infection with Sars or Mers results in a protective immune response in which T cells and antibodies specific to the pathogen are generated. T cells are important for killing virus-infected cells, while antibodies bind to the virus and prevent it infecting new cells, according to St John.
“Pre-clinical vaccine studies for Sars and Mers have shown that ‘mucosal immunity’ is especially critical for protection against coronaviruses,” she said. “This kind of immunity gives you protection in your lungs, gut and nasal mucosal surfaces.”
Vaccines can generate immunity to the virus without people becoming sick. Researchers are working to produce a vaccine that simulates the immune responses of healthy individuals who cleared the virus, St John said.
For Sars-CoV-2, those who recover develop antibodies that can neutralise the virus. Some of the antibodies target the spike protein on the surface of the virus, which is involved in the virus binding to cells to allow infection, she said.