People who have had COVID-19 are very unlikely to contract it again for at least six months after their first infection, according to a British study of healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
The results should reassure the more than 51 million people worldwide who have contracted the disease, researchers at the University of Oxford said.
“This is really good news, because we can be sure that, at least in the short term, the majority of people who contract COVID-19 will no longer have it,” said David Eyre, professor in the Department of Health. of the Nuffield populations in Oxford, who co-led the study.
Isolated cases of reinfection with covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, had raised concerns that immunity would be short-lived and that recovered patients could quickly fall ill again.
But the results of the study, conducted on a cohort of British healthcare workers, who are among the most at risk of contracting COVID-19, suggest that cases of reinfection are likely to remain extremely rare.
“Being infected with COVID-19 offers protection against reinfection for most people for at least six months,” Eyre said. “We did not find any new symptomatic infections in any of the participants who tested positive for the antibodies.”
The study, which is part of a large staff testing program, covered a 30-week period from April to November 2020. Its results have not been reviewed by other scientists, but have been published before. to be reviewed on the website. MedRxiv.
During the study, 89 of the 11,052 employees without antibodies developed a new infection with symptoms, while none of the 1,246 employees with antibodies developed a symptomatic infection.
Staff with antibodies were also less likely to test positive for COVID-19 without symptoms, the researchers said, with 76 without antibodies testing positive, compared to just three with antibodies. These three were doing well and did not develop symptoms of coronavirus, they added.
“We will continue to monitor this cohort of staff closely to see how long the protection lasts and whether a previous infection affects the severity of the infection if people are re-infected,” Eyre said.