In March, Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson revealed they had been diagnosed with COVID-19 while filming in Australia. While undergoing treatment at a local hospital, they chronicled their health struggles via their social media accounts.
However, despite recovering from the possibly fatal virus, Hanks recently revealed in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that they might still not be safe. Despite initially having antibodies in their blood, recent tests showed their immunity to the coronavirus was flagging as time went by.
6. Tom Hanks on Diminished COVID-19 Antibodies
In the interview, Hanks stated, “We’ve been paying attention to the results of some blood studies and plasma studies. We have found out that we have fewer antibodies now than we did at the get-go … What we have been told is that as the antibodies begin to fade, it’s possible that we will once again be susceptible to catching some form of the coronavirus again.” Hanks and his wife have been participating in antibody plasma studies to help other virus victims recover.
5. WHO and Antibodies
Around the world, many studies are focusing on whether antibodies provide immunity from COVID-19. In April, the World Health Organization (WHO) tweeted, “We expect that most people who are infected with COVID-19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection.”
WHO went on to write, “What we don’t yet know is the level of protection or how long it will last? We are working with scientists around the world to better understand the body’s response to #COVID19 infection. So far, no studies have answered these important questions.”
4. Research Around COVID-19 Antibodies
Researchers continue to scramble to determine the truth behind the effectiveness of antibodies. Dr. William Schaffner, medical director at the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, stated on TODAY, “Conventionally with antibodies going down, your resistance to reinfection would also diminish, but we don’t know what level of (COVID-19) antibody is protective,”
3. Antibodies and the Common Cold
Everyone is familiar with the common cold. In fact, during the year children suffer from the common cold several times and adults might experience the all-too-common stuffy nose and sore throat once or twice a year.
What many people do not realize is that when they first contract the common cold, their body does scramble to produce antibodies to combat future infections from the virus. Unfortunately, the antibodies your body produces only last about a year, and then you are in danger of reinfection.
Dr. Shaffner states in an interview about reduced antibodies and their effectiveness, “Whether this happens with COVID is really not sure. We do not know whether these antibodies, first of all, protect. We think they do because that is the history of infectious diseases. I expect there will be a spectrum. Some people’s antibodies will fall off more rapidly; others will take longer to wane. It may well be that you can become susceptible again.”
2. China Antibody Research
In a study undertaken by China, it was recently revealed that individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 who failed to develop symptoms might not have sufficient antibodies within their system to last for very long.
The study was rather small and did have limitations. It clearly showed that people diagnosed with COVID-19 recovered did develop antibodies, but how long will the protection last? Many people worry that they can immediately become reinfected.
At Chongqing Medical Center, researchers compared 37 COVID symptomatic patients from the Wanzhou District of China. In the study, about 47 percent tested negative for the antibodies. The individuals (13 percent) then went on to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Interestingly, asymptomatic patients also displayed low levels of cytokines. The proteins released by the human body often lead to a hyperinflammatory response. The weak immune response found in such individuals appears to be what the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has referred to as one of his main concerns about the effectiveness of antibodies for the long term.
Fauci stated, “It isn’t a uniformly robust antibody response, which may be a reason why, when you look at the history of the common coronaviruses that cause the common cold, the reports in the literature are that the durability of immunity that’s protective ranges from three to six months to almost always less than a year.”
1. Lower Antibodies and the Long-Term Response
Scientists remain on the fence about what the reduced antibody levels mean as time goes by. Many researchers have stated that the lower antibodies might not mean that the person is at an increased risk of becoming reinfected by the virus.
The scientific community has also called against issuing so-called immunity passports, which denote that an individual, such as a healthcare worker, is now immune to the virus so is safe to return to work. At this time there is no way to know if someone is totally immune to the virus.
Previous studies of the coronaviruses SARS and MERS have shown that the antibodies last for at least a year before dropping, but with COVID-19 it might happen sooner. In theory, lower antibodies can put a person at risk for reinfection.Related: Are You Immune to COVID-19? The Mayo Clinic Has a New Way to Find Out