The Slatest

U.K. Study Finds COVID-19 Antibodies Fall Significantly, Making Immunity Unlikely

People wear face masks in the town centre of Warrington, England.
The preliminary data casts serious doubt on the possibility that some form of herd immunity is attainable without widespread vaccination. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

In more dispiriting news, a U.K. study released late Monday found that the number of people with COVID-19 antibodies fell significantly over a three-month period, indicating that people who contract the virus are likely not out of the woods and can contract the virus again. The study of more than 350,000 people by Imperial College London showed the number of people with antibodies declined by 26 percent between June and September. The preliminary findings have yet to be reviewed and confirmed by other experts, but the preliminary data casts serious doubt on the possibility that some form of herd immunity is attainable without widespread vaccination. It also, once again, shows how reckless and predictably divorced from reality President Donald Trump’s comments are suggesting he’s now immune after apparently recovering from the virus.

The Imperial study using self-administered finger-prick tests found that 6 precent of the population of England had antibodies in June, but that number dipped to 4.4 percent three months later in September. “The study reflects earlier smaller trials and suggests that antibodies to the virus decline over 6-12 months after infection, as in other seasonal coronaviruses such as the common cold,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “The study doesn’t indicate whether other types of immune responses—such as that contributed by so-called T cells—would help protect against reinfection.”

The study did find that those that displayed symptoms of the virus did not lose their antibodies as quickly asymptomatic people who contracted the coronavirus; previously infected health care workers’ antibodies also remained higher than the general population, potentially due to repeated exposure that might maintain the body’s immune response. The overall results are not great for the global struggle to contain the virus, though researchers hope that some form of “immune memory” will make individuals with repeat COVID cases more capable of fighting off the disease after the initial infection.