Good news for vaccine – coronavirus-fighting antibodies last longer than scientists thought

  • The report is the most extensive work yet on the immune system’s response to the virus over time

Antibodies that people make to fight coronavirus last for at least four months after diagnosis and do not fade quickly as some earlier reports suggested, scientists have found.

Tuesday’s report, from tests on more than 30,000 people in Iceland, is the most extensive work yet on the immune system’s response to the virus over time, and is good news for efforts to develop vaccines.

If a vaccine can spur production of long-lasting antibodies as natural infection seems to do, it gives hope that “immunity to this unpredictable and highly contagious virus may not be fleeting”, scientists from Harvard University and the US National Institutes of Health wrote in a commentary published with the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of the big mysteries of the pandemic is whether having had coronavirus helps protect against future infection, and for how long. Some smaller studies previously suggested that antibodies may disappear quickly and that some people with few or no symptoms may not make many at all.