U.K study finds sharp drop in COVID-19 antibodies just months after infection

One of the vexing things about coronaviruses like the common cold is that the immune response they induce is often short-lived. You catch a cold, recover and then catch it again six months later.

New research published Tuesday indicates fading immunity might also occur with the much more serious coronavirus, SARS CoV-2. Imperial College London scientists found that in a random sample of 365,000 adults in the United Kingdom, the presence of COVID-19 antibodies declined in all age groups by 26% from June to September.

The subjects in the REACT2 study, which has not been peer-reviewed, were given finger-prick tests in three rounds over the summer. After the first round, which ended in July, about 60 of 1,000 people in the sample, or 6%, had positive antibodies. By the end of September, that number had fallen to 44 per 1,000 (4.4%).

Age appeared to affect antibody duration. Younger people had higher levels than those over 65, and their antibodies lasted longer.

A faster decline in antibodies was observed in asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases than in those with full-blown symptoms, said Professor Wendy Barclay, head of the college’s infectious disease department, in a video call with journalists. Health care workers showed no change in antibody levels, possibly due to continuous on-the-job exposure to the virus.

“On the balance of evidence, I would say, with what we know for other coronaviruses, it would look as if immunity declines away at the same rate as antibodies decline away, and that this is an indication of waning immunity at the population level,” Barclay added.

“We don’t yet know what level of antibody is needed in a person’s blood to prevent reinfection,” she added.

Just a handful of cases of people getting COVID-19 twice have been confirmed. But immunity from the first wave of infections in March and April may only now be starting to dissipate, raising the prospect of more repeat cases, according to epidemiologists.

The findings suggest that those expecting increased infections to result in so-called herd immunity over time could be disappointed.

Herd immunity occurs when enough of a population is immune to a disease, making it unlikely to spread and protecting the rest of the community.

If no vaccine is developed, the portion of the population that would have to recover from COVID-19 in order to achieve herd immunity is estimated at about 70%, or more than 200 million people in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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U.K. Study Suggests Drop in Population’s Coronavirus Immunity | Health News

The proportion of people with antibodies against the coronavirus in England waned over the span of three months, according to new research out of the U.K. that raises new questions about the achievability of long-lasting herd immunity.

The study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, found that the number of people with COVID-19 antibodies declined about 26% over the study period.

Researchers examined three rounds of finger-prick tests from about 365,000 people in England from June through September. They found that about 6% of people had antibodies after the first test, which dropped to 4.4% after the last round.

The findings “suggest the possibility of decreasing population immunity and increasing risk of reinfection as detectable antibodies decline in the population,” according to the study.

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TOPSHOT - A passenger in an outfit (R) poses for a picture as a security guard wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus stands nearby on a last century-style boat, featuring a theatrical drama set between the 1920s and 1930s in Wuhan, in Chinas central Hubei province on September 27, 2020. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

“This very large study has shown that the proportion of people with detectable antibodies is falling over time,” Helen Ward, one of the authors of the study and professor at Imperial College London, said in a statement. “We don’t yet know whether this will leave these people at risk of reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but it is essential that everyone continues to follow guidance to reduce the risk to themselves and others.”

The finding that antibodies against COVID-19 wane is not unexpected, as declines in antibodies to other human coronaviruses after infection have been documented.

“This is consistent with evidence that immunity to seasonal coronaviruses declines over 6 to 12 months after infection and emerging data on SARS-CoV-2 that also detected a decrease over time in antibody levels in individuals followed in longitudinal studies,” researchers wrote in the study.

Still, many have questioned how strong the immune response is to the virus and how long it lasts.

A study out last month found that antibody levels rose for about two months after infection and then plateaued through the four-month mark. That research “provides hope that host immunity to this unpredictable and highly contagious virus may not be fleeting and may be similar to that elicited by most other viral infections,” experts from Harvard University and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, who did not participate in the study, wrote in a commentary published alongside the conclusions.

Massive virus surges across Europe and the U.S. are underway. Some have suggested the controversial idea of letting the virus spread to possibly reach herd immunity, which is generally considered to be around 70% of the population.

Many health officials have decried the notion, and the World Health Organization noted that “we don’t know enough about immunity to COVID-19” for it to be a viable option.

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference earlier this month.

In the U.S., White House chief of staff Mark Meadows offered a glimpse into President Donald Trump’s coronavirus strategy on Sunday, saying the federal government would focus on developing vaccines

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Drop in flu deaths may indicate that most at risk died from coronavirus

Flu deaths are down two-thirds from the five-year average, a drop that could indicate the most vulnerable Americans died in the first wave of COVID-19.

New federal estimates show no flu deaths for the week ending Oct. 17. The federal five-year average for the same week is 17 fatalities. New York and New York City recorded no flu deaths, which is also that week’s five-year average for each.

“We are still very early into this influenza season and it’s too early to make any predictions on severity,” Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza told The Post. (iStock)

“We are still very early into this influenza season and it’s too early to make any predictions on severity,” Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza told The Post. (iStock)

The city is taking a wait-and-see attitude, with the flu season just a few weeks old.

“We are still very early into this influenza season and it’s too early to make any predictions on severity,” Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza told The Post.


A similar pattern is emerging in the UK, where flu and pneumonia took 1,132 lives last month – 28% lower than the five-year monthly average of roughly 1,500.

The country’s Office for National Statistics thinks the drop is because medically vulnerable Brits who would have died this fall from flu and pneumonia instead died this spring from the coronavirus.

But private British statistician Kevin McConway told The Post he doubts “whether it’s the whole story.”


McConway points out that flu and pneumonia are airborne infections like the coronavirus and the safety guidelines put in place for the pandemic — masks, social distancing and handwashing — would stop them, too.

Said state health department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond: “Wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing, and all the other measures put in place to slow the Coronavirus should also slow the flu and other viruses.”


US health officials have been urging Americans for months that a bad flu season on top of the COVID outbreak could overwhelm hospitals and increase the risk of catching both infections at the same time.

Pneumonia deaths in the U.S. and across the city and state are down as well. For the week ending Oct. 17, deaths nationwide stood at 1,251 – down 60% from the five-year average of 3,106 for the same week.

The state recorded 93 pneumonia deaths, a 36% decrease from the five-year average of 146 for the same week. The city’s total stood at 51, down the five-year average of 86 — a 41% reduction.

Click for more from NYPost.com.

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Key ObamaCare premiums drop for third straight year

Average ObamaCare premiums will decline by 2 percent for the 2021 year for a benchmark plan, the Trump administration announced, marking the third straight year of declines.

Premiums for the benchmark plan have declined by 8 percent on the HealthCare.gov platform over the three-year period since the 2018 plan year, the administration said.

The announcement from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is an indication of how the Trump administration is claiming credit for its stewardship of the Affordable Care Act while at the same time backing a lawsuit to scrap the law.

“Bottom line – The President has delivered, lower cost and more choice,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Our changes to the regulations and how we have managed the Exchanges have proven to be more effective than previous administrations.”

On the other hand, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: ‘The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it’ Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE made clear last month that he still wants ObamaCare struck down.

“Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court. Would be a big WIN for the USA!” he tweeted.

The administration argues, however, that as long as law is still on the books, it is being managed well.

The simple passage of time is also a factor in the stabilization of the ObamaCare markets. Insurers initially underpriced their premiums when the law kicked into gear in 2014, and then had to raise them to avoid losses. As the years have gone on, insurers have more experience in the marketplaces and have priced more accurately.

More insurers are also participating in the law’s marketplaces, the administration said. Just 9 percent of counties will have only one insurer offering ObamaCare coverage, down from 50 percent of counties in 2018.

Democrats have pointed to cuts in outreach funding and the expansion of cheaper, skimpier “short-term plans” to argue that the Trump administration is undermining the law.

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