LONDON – Nov. 20 (Reuters) – People who have had COVID-19 are highly unlikely to get it again for at least six months after their first infection, according to a UK study of frontline health professionals in the fight against coronavirus pandemic.
The results should provide some reassurance to the more than 51 million people worldwide who have been infected with the pandemic disease, say researchers at the University of Oxford.
“This is really good news because we can be sure that at least in the short term, most people who get COVID-1
Isolated cases of reinfection with COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, had raised concerns that immunity might be short-lived and that recovering patients could quickly become ill again.
However, the results of this study, conducted in a cohort of UK healthcare professionals – who are among those most at risk of getting COVID-19 – suggest that cases of reinfection are likely to remain extremely rare.
“Getting infected with COVID-19 provides protection against three infections for most people for at least six months,” Eyre said. “We found no new symptomatic infections in any of the participants who had tested positive for antibodies.”
The study, which is part of a large staff test program, covered a 30-week period between April and November 2020. Its results have not been peer-reviewed by other researchers, but were published before review on the MedRxiv website.
During the study, 89 of 11,052 employees without antibodies developed a new infection with symptoms, while none of the 1,246 employees with antibodies developed a symptomatic infection.
Staff with antibodies were also less likely to test positive for COVID-19 without symptoms, the researchers said, with 76 without antibodies testing positive, compared with only three with antibodies. These three were all well and did not develop COVID-19 symptoms, they added.
“We will continue to follow this group of employees closely to see how long the protection lasts and whether previous infection affects the severity of infection if people become infected again,” Eyre said.
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