Doctors say COVID-19 antibodies do not guarantee immunity

Coronavirus antibodies do NOT guarantee immunity, doctors warn, as uncertainty over the testing that was supposed to get the world back to work grows

  • Doctors say it is an ‘assumption’ that COVID-19 antibodies make a person immune
  • It undermines the notion that people can get back to work with a so-called ‘immunity passport’
  • On Monday, WHO officials said they simply ‘do not know’ enough about people becoming reinfected 
  • There is a concern that the virus can ‘reactivate’ in a person without them coming into contact with a separate virus source
  • There is a global rush to nail down diagnostic and antibody testing to reboot the economy
  • But none of the dozens of tests produced so far are full-proof and they are alpso not widely available 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Doctors have made the terrifying claim that even if a person is found to have antibodies against COVID-19, it does not necessarily make them immune to the killer virus that has crippled the world. 

Many are hinging their hopes of reopening society and getting back to work on a so-called immunity ‘passport’ that means they have had the virus, recovered from it and cannot be reinfected because of antibodies in their blood. 

But none of the dozens of tests being rushed through production and scaled up around the world are full-proof. 

Some are not sensitive enough to detect the antibodies and some cannot differentiate them from antibodies against other illnesses. 

Now, doctors are warning that even if the test is nailed down, it might not serve in the way people think it will. 

Stanford University volunteers carried out drive-thru testing over the weekend. Now doctors are warning that even if a person does have antibodies, they might not be immune 

‘Just because you have antibodies doesn’t mean you have immunity,’ Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine in Georgia, said on Friday. 

‘Everybody is being optimistic you have some sort of sustained immunity for at least the ensuing months to a year. 

‘But it is still somewhat an assumption,’ Kelly Wroblewski, the Association of Public Health Laboratories’ director of infectious diseases, added in a statement to Politico. 

On Monday, officials from the World Health Organization admitted that they are not confident a person cannot be infected a second time too.

Scientists work in the Mirimus Inc lab in New York to process blood samples taken for antibody testing 

‘With regards to recovery and then reinfection, I believe we do not have the answers to that.

‘That is an unknown,’Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, said at a press conference in Geneva on Monday. 

The tests look for two different antibodies – IgM and IgG. This is Genesystems’ test

Dr. Ryan also made the frightening comment that the virus could ‘reactivate’ in a person’s body, causing them to become infected a second time without coming into contact with a new infection source. 

‘There are many reasons why we might see reactivation of infection either with the same infection or another infectious agent. 

‘There are many situations in viral infection where someone doesn’t clear the virus entirely from their system,’ he said, adding that while a person might clear the initial virus, they may develop a secondary, bacterial infection. 

There is a global race to develop not just accurate antibody tests but easy, at-home diagnostic tests to tell if a person currently has the infection. 

The FDA recently approved the first saliva diagnostic test that was developed by the Emory School of Medicine. 

It has only approved one antibody test but it remains unclear when and where it will be rolled out. 

In the meantime, nearly 100 private companies have made and are selling their own kits under relaxed FDA rules which means they can be sold without having approval. 

The rules were loosened in light of the catastrophic delay in diagnostic testing in the US at the beginning of the pandemic. 

While it allows more people to have tests done and have them done quickly, the accuracy or legitimacy of the tests remains unconfirmed. 

It has created a ‘wild west’ scenario where governments and private companies are rushing to get their tests into the mass market to get people back to work to restart the economy. 

Separately, scientists are running different types of tests to try to find out how prevalent the virus was and still is in society. 

They hope it will help them understand the pandemic better and avoid it happening again.  

Republican Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank boss who oversaw 2008 recession bailout says antibody testing is key to reopening US – but the country is YEARS away from carrying out millions of tests

The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank boss says antibody testing is the key to being able to slowly reopen the country but that the United States is months, if not years, away from being able to carry out widespread tests. 

In an interview with NBC’s Today on Tuesday about the prospects of reopening the country, Neel Kashkari said it would have to happen slowly and officials would have to track any coronavirus flare ups until a treatment or vaccine was developed. 

‘We should be pursing all widespread testing. I’ve talked to health experts who think that we are months if not years away from being able to test millions of people on a given day,’ Kashkari said. 

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank boss Neel Kashkari says antibody testing is the key to being able to slowly reopen the country but that the United States is months, if not years, away from being able to carry out widespread tests

‘We’re going to have to slowly reopen things and then very carefully see if we’re getting flare ups again.’

If there is a surge in new cases, Kashkari said the US would ‘have to lock things down again and keep doing that for the foreseeable future until we get an effective treatment or vaccine’.    

Kashkari, who helped run the US bailout program during the 2008 recession, said the US would need to be targeted in trying to reopen the country, including looking at which businesses could reopen. 

He said, as an example, that it would make sense to initially reopen optometrists instead of cinemas to still maintain some form of social distancing.   

‘I think we’re going to have to be much more targeted as we try to reopen the economy,’ he said.  

‘Until you really extinguish (coronavirus) with a vaccine or treatment, there is always that risk of a flare up. We have to be very careful and think over the long term,’ Kashkari said. 

‘To me, it’s not about the next couple weeks or the next month even. It’s about how do we get to that destination of a vaccine or a therapy.’

Kashkari said it was likely that the economy could take at least 18 months to recover from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus.  

‘I don’t think we’re going to go back to the way life was like in January  and February for the next year or next 18 months,’ he said. 

His comments echoed an interview he gave on CBS at the weekend during which he said the US was facing a ‘long, hard road’ to recovery.

‘This could be a long, hard road that we have ahead of us until we get to either an effective therapy or a vaccine,’ he said. 

‘It’s hard for me to see a V-shaped recovery under that scenario.’ 

Kashkari’s comments came amid signals from President Donald Trump that he wants to re-open the economy as soon as possible. 

Health experts have warned that the death toll could surge to 200,000 over the summer if unprecedented stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses and kept most Americans indoors are lifted when they expire at the end of the month. 

Kashkari said additional support was needed for small businesses beyond the $350 billion provided in the coronavirus aid package passed in March, but he was optimistic that Congress would approve more funding. 

A staggering 16 million Americans have filed for jobless claims in the three weeks to April 4 and economists expect unemployment spiking to Depression-era levels in coming weeks as entire sectors remain shut down to try and contain the pandemic. 


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