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(CNN) – The covid-19 antibodies produced by those with a mild infection may remain detectable for at least 11 months after infection, according to research published this week.
In the study published in the journal Nature, the researchers took blood samples from 77 people who had previously been infected with COVID-19. In the initial phase of the study, the samples showed a reduction in the presence of antibodies against COVID-19 after infection. Between four and 11 months after infection this reduction slowed down.
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However, the researchers also took bone marrow samples from 18 previously infected patients to measure the presence of bone marrow plasma cells, which are important in protecting antibodies and developing long-term protection against the virus.
In bone marrow samples, the researchers did find bone marrow long-lived plasma cells (BMPC) that would produce antibodies against covid-19. Unlike the decline in other antibodies they observed, BMPC levels were stable for 7 to 11 months after infection.
“We are looking for the source of these antibodies that are produced by cells that live in our bone marrow,” Ali Ellebedy, associate professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who contributed to the study, told CNN Wednesday.
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“(According to) what we saw in people who had been infected even a year ago, these cells are stable in their bone marrow and continue to produce antibodies over time,” he explained.
How would the “memory” of antibodies against covid-19 benefit us?
The researchers said that the presence of those cells does not automatically mean that a strong immune response will be triggered if one of the participants is reinfected, but that there is the potential for a long-lasting immune response.
“What we’re saying and what we’re looking at is that when you have the antibodies, you have a very good memory,” Ellebedy said. “And that memory could be great if you have a lot of antibodies and if the virus doesn’t change,” he added.
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“I think it is very important to make a distinction: having an antibody does not mean that you are completely protected, that is very different,” he said.
“But what should excite us and encourage us is that there are these memory cells that are ready to go into action once we have the virus or are exposed to the virus again,” he explained.