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Immune system has long-term defenses after mild Covid-19

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy REUTERS | Fri,May 28 2021 00:00:00 EAT
By REUTERS | Fri,May 28 2021 00:00:00 EAT

 Man looks at syringe as medical professional administers jab [Courtesy]

Months after recovery from mild Covid-19, when antibody levels in the blood have declined, immune cells in bone marrow remain ready to pump out new antibodies against the coronavirus, researchers reported on Monday in Nature.

Upon infection, short-lived immune cells are generated quickly to secrete an early wave of protective antibodies. As the immune cells die out, antibody levels decline.

But a pool of these immune cells, called long-lived plasma cells, is held in reserve after infection. Most of them migrate to the bone marrow, explained coauthor Ali Ellebedy of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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His team obtained bone marrow samples from 19 patients seven months after the onset of mild Covid-19. Fifteen had long-lived plasma cells secreting antibodies against the coronavirus. Five of the 15 had second bone marrow biopsies 11 months after symptom onset and all still had long-lived plasma cells secreting antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Ellebedy, in a statement, noted that these cells are “just sitting in the bone marrow and secreting antibodies. They have been doing that ever since the infection resolved, and they will continue doing that indefinitely... These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives.”

Young children appear to be significant carriers of more contagious variants of the new coronavirus, such as the ones identified in the UK and in California, according to a new U.S. study. From March 2020 to April 2021, researchers at nine children’s hospitals tested a total of 2,119 COVID-19 patients age 18 or younger for so-called variants of concern, along with key mutations that help the variants become more contagious or hide from the patient’s immune system.

“In total, we identified 560 of these important mutations, and 75% were in children less than 12 years of age, the population that is currently not eligible for Covid-19 vaccines,” said Jennifer Dien Bard, lead author of a report posted on Monday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.


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