People who have recovered from COVID-19 can likely mount a fast and effective response to the virus if they encounter it again because their immune system’s “B cells” will remember how to make the antibodies needed to fight it, a new study shows.
Researchers tracked 87 COVID-19 survivors for six months and found that while levels of antibodies to the virus may decline over time, the number of memory B cells remains unchanged.
The antibodies produced by these cells are more potent than the patients’ original antibodies and may be more resistant to mutations in the spike protein the virus uses to break into cells, they said.
For example, they found, the antibodies could recognize and neutralize at least one of the mutations in the South African variant of the virus that has caused concern among health experts. Even if antibody levels fall, B cells will remember how to make them when necessary, according to study leader Michel Nussenzweig of Rockefeller University, whose findings were reported on Monday in Nature.
If this is true at six months, as in this study, it is safe to assume it is probably still true for longer periods, he added. People who have recovered from COVID-19 “may become infected but the immune system will be prepped to fight off the infection,” Nussenzweig said