Research conducted by the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) revealed that the immunity for Covid-19 lasts for 6-7 months at least, but between 20% and 30% of those infected lose this immunity after 6 months.
“The key finding of 20-30% of subjects losing virus-neutralizing activity, despite staying seropositive, at 6-month follow-up helps understand why the large second wave has not spared cities like Mumbai with high seropositivity,” Dr Anurag Agarwal, the director of IGIB said in a tweet.
As per a Hindustan Times report, the research is important because it could explain the timing of the second wave of the disease such as the one India is witnessing right now. It is also important because it emphasizes the importance of vaccines.
However, the research is still ongoing, but most vaccines currently in use are believed to protect people from severe infection and death. The researchers say that the findings can explain the current sudden spike in Mumbai and Delhi. These cities are witnessing a sharp spike in cases of viral infection despite having high seropositivity – or antibodies.
Delhi was found to have average seropositivity of just over 56% in January, which doctors in the city believe was the reason for the slowing of the pandemic after the post-Diwali surge. On Saturday, Delhi registered 7,897 new cases, and Mumbai registered a spike of 9,327.
The IGIB study also established that seropositivity was inversely proportional to the Test Positivity Rate, which means, a higher prevalence of antibodies leads to a decline in transmission.
“In September, when we conducted a sero-survey across CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) laboratories, just over 10% of the participants were found to have antibodies against the virus. Then, we followed up with a fraction of these participants for three and five to six months and conducted a quantitative test to check their antibody levels,” said Dr Shantanu Sengupta, senior scientist from IGIB and one of the authors of the study accepted for publication in eLife journal on Saturday.
At five to six months, nearly 20% of the participants had lost the neutralisation activity despite having antibodies, the neutralisation activity for the rest was also on the decline, he added. Neutralisation is the ability of the antibody to either kill the virus or completely prevent it from entering a cell.