Since the pandemic began, there has been much debate over whether you can contract COVID-19 for a second time. Anecdotally speaking, there are stories from around the world of patients seeming to recover from the virus, only to test positive a few weeks later.
But, so far, there hasn’t been a scientifically proven second case of coronavirus in one person.
“I haven’t heard of a case where it’s been truly unambiguously demonstrated,” said Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The New York Times.
According to the NYT, the virus is behaving similar to most others, which has led experts to believe that herd immunity can be achieved with a vaccine. While it still might be possible to be infected with COVID-19 more than once, experts don’t think this would happen in such a short period of time.
The consensus from the medical community is that for some people, the virus can take weeks or months to peter out after initial exposure.
Those infected with COVID-19 usually produce immune molecules called antibodies, says the NYT, but recent research has found that these levels of antibodies drop in two to three months after having the virus.
According to an immunologist at Harvard University, this is pretty normal. Many are “scratching their heads saying, ‘What an extraordinarily odd virus that it’s not leading to robust immunity,’ but they’re totally wrong,’” Dr. Mina told the NYT. “It doesn’t get more textbook than this.”
Antibodies aren’t the only form of defence against pathogens, as COVID-19 also causes a response from immune cells that can kill the virus and “quickly rouse reinforcements for future battles.”
“If those are maintained, and especially if they’re maintained within the lung and the respiratory tract, then I think they can do a pretty good job of stopping an infection from spreading,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told the NYT.
While immunity to COVID-19 may fade, some residual protection will most likely still be there, along with the immune defence warriors, memory T cells and B cells.
As the world is only seven months into the pandemic, there is still much to learn about how COVID-19 behaves. But, this is a small glimmer of hope in an otherwise devastating illness.