Longer, Worse COVID Leaves Stronger Antibodies: Study

MONDAY, Aug. 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Survivors of severe or long COVID-19 could have greater antibody protection against future infection than those whose illness was shorter or milder, new research suggests.

For the study, a Rutgers University team followed 548 health care workers and 283 other workers from the start of the pandemic. Within six months, 93 (11%) of them tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 or for antibodies against the virus.

Of those, 24 had severe symptoms and 14 had no symptoms. For one-third, symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of taste and smell lasted at least a month. One in 10 had symptoms for at least four months.

"Neurological changes, including brain fog and problems with memory or vision, were infrequent among infected participants but did tend to last for many months when they occurred," said co-lead author Dr. Daniel Horton. He is an assistant professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in New Brunswick, N.J.

"Notably, having persistent symptoms was also associated with having higher antibody levels over time," Horton said in a Rutgers news release

Health care workers were much more likely to get infected and become severely ill, and nurses had particularly high infection rates, according to findings recently published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Six months after their infection, most people had immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies against the coronavirus. But antibody production varied based on symptom severity: 96% of those with severe symptoms had antibodies, as did 89% of those with mild to moderate symptoms and 79% of those without symptoms.

Co-lead author Emily Barrett said it is normal for antibody levels to decline over time.

"Nevertheless, IgG antibodies provide long-term protection to help the body fight reinfection," said Barrett, an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health in Piscataway, N.J.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: Rutgers University, news release, Aug. 13, 2021

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