So far it was unclear whether an immunological memory is after survived SARS-CoV-2 infection exists and can thus protect against re-infection. Several studies had shown that specific antibodies are only detectable for a few months in many people who have survived COVID-19. As a result, these may only provide temporary protection against re-infection. A research team at the Medical Center of the University of Freiburg has now been able to demonstrate such a positive result.
Protection against second infection through immunological memory
According to the study authors, immune cells are formed after recovery from coronavirus. These remain in the body and can provide a rapid immune response in the event of a renewed infection. The so-called T cells after a COVID-19 infection are similar to those after a real flu. The research team from Freiburg is therefore confident that the majority of people who have survived such an illness will have some protection against re-infection. In order to achieve reliable research results within a few months, close networking between clinics and science at the highest level would be a basic requirement. On the one hand, patients with COVID-19 are treated in the ward and continue to be cared for in such a special outpatient clinic even after the infection has healed. On the other hand, the clinic there has great expertise in the analysis of immune cells in viral infections such as hepatitis C and B.
Although the University of Freiburg is not involved in the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the study results ensure more optimism. These suggest that such an immunological memory against SARS-CoV-2 can be achieved after an infection. Vaccines, which are currently also being tested in studies, could therefore offer considerable protection against COVID-19. Deciphering complex immune responses has long been a part of the research focus of the university and the medical center. Thanks to the high scientific quality on site, the scientists can now make an important contribution to the corona crisis, according to the authors the study. The Freiburg research was published in the online edition of the renowned journal Nature Medicine on November 12, 2020.