An American-Chinese study has claimed that humans may never develop herd immunity to COVID-19.
Scientists from the University of Texas in the US city of Galveston and the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in the city of Wuhan, led by Wang Xinhuan, carried out the study on hospital workers in Wuhan in China.
Researchers investigated whether Wuhan medics who were directly exposed to infected patients during the early stages of the pandemic had developed antibodies to fight it off.
According to reports, at least a quarter of over 23,000 samples taken from hospital workers showed that they could have contracted the virus as some stage.
However, only four percent appeared to have developed antibodies as of April this year.
Researchers working on the early tests concluded: “People are unlikely to produce long-lasting protective antibodies against this virus.”
The study pointed out that that many countries are working towards ‘herd immunity’ based on the assumption that people will develop antibodies to protect them from further infection.
Antibodies are produced by the immune system to bind with the virus spike protein to prevent it from infecting cells.
A previous study found that that 2.5 percent of medics in Wuhan had been infected with the virus although some estimates believe the real number could have been as high as 25 percent, according to reports.
As human-to-human transmission was not confirmed until late January, many workers were not wearing PPE when treating patients.
Wang admitted: “They just got infected with Sars-CoV-2 and fought off the virus with their own immune systems.”
However, he believes that as many as 10 percent of the tested subjects may have lost antibody protection within a month.
The study said: “Our findings have important implications for herd immunity, antibody-based therapeutics, public health strategies, and vaccine development.”
They also said that antibody tests may not be sufficient for telling whether someone has contracted the virus and that the presence of antibodies may not necessarily provide immunity later.
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