Covid-19 Immunity In comparison with 6 Different Ailments (Widespread Chilly, HIV, SARS, and Extra) | Trigger + Management

published on July 3, 2020

– If you get COVID-19
and you recover from it,

does that mean you're immune to the virus?

And even if you were to become immune,

how long would that immunity last?

Now we're still waiting on studies

to really give us definitive
answers to these questions

But in the meantime I
think what can help us

understand COVID-19 immunity,

is thinking about our body's
responses to other infections

and I kind of think of it
as an immunity spectrum

So what I wanna do now,

is talk us through some examples

along that immunity spectrum
to help us better understand

where COVID-19 might fit in

[upbeat music]

On one end of the spectrum
is Varicella-zoster virus,

the virus that causes Chickenpox

And you might remember
from your own childhood,

that if you get Chickenpox once

you usually develop a
lifelong immunity to it

and you don't get it again

This kind of lifelong immunity

happens because of antibodies

Something you've probably been
hearing loads about recently

Antibodies are proteins
made by our immune system

that protect us from harmful things

Those can be infections
like viruses and bacteria,

but also toxins and cancer cells

With Chickenpox,

your body churns out antibodies

that are in it for the long haul

And it also has cells

that are ready to make more antibodies

Should you meet the virus again,

you can get exposed to viruses
through natural infection

or this is a preferable
way, you get immunized

Meaning you get a vaccine
that introduces your body

to a weakened version or
a dead version of a virus,

so that your body knows what to recognize

and it mounts a solid immune response

that stops you getting sick

And if you didn't get sick
with Chickenpox as a kid,

you get two shots of the vaccine

that gives you longterm immunity

Now, some people who have
a weakened immune system

can get Chickenpox a second time,

and in fact,

our bodies are never able to
get rid of the virus totally

It stays latent inside our nerve cells

and in around one third of people,

the virus reactivates later
in life and causes Shingles

So how does COVID-19
compare to this example,

obviously the ideal situation would be

that you get COVID-19 once and that's it

You're immune forever to the
virus that causes the disease

Unfortunately, this
doesn't seem that likely

And here's why

There were early studies showing

that when people recover from COVID-19

they do have antibodies in their system,

but because this is such a new infection

One, we're not sure how
long those antibodies

hang around for and two,

there are some reports
of those antibody levels

dropping really low, just a
few weeks after infection

[upbeat music]

Here's another example, Whooping cough,

this is caused by a bacteria,

and usually if you get infected once

that immunity lasts from 4 to 20 years

So quite a big range

Because immunity fades over time

The CDC recommends you get vaccinated

against Whooping cough,

but even with that,

you need to get booster shots

Those are shots that you get
your initial vaccinations

to make sure you stay protected
over a period of time

So even if we do develop a
successful vaccine for COVID-19,

maybe that vaccination
scenario will be similar to

Whooping cough where you get
your initial doses of vaccine,

but then you have to get
booster shots as well

[upbeat music]

So here's our next example

H1N1 Influenza, also known as Swine Flu

Studies have shown that immunity to H1N1

can last anywhere from
2 years to 10 years

This is a strain of flu that
caused a pandemic in 2009

but now circulates pretty regularly

alongside other common flu strains

And with the flu the
reason that we're getting

new flu shots every single flu season,

is because flu strains are changing

And so literally every summer
in the Northern hemisphere,

scientists are racing to predict

which flu strains are gonna hit us

And what kind of vaccine they need to make

for that specific flu season

Some experts predict that SARS-COV-2

will follow that same path as H1N1

Meaning it causes a
terrible pandemic at first

but then circulates much
more like a regular virus

after the fact

[upbeat music]

Now when it comes to figuring
out where the new Coronavirus

might fit on the immunity spectrum

I think our best bet

might be to compare it to the
original SARS Coronavirus

SARS stands for Severe
Acute Respiratory Syndrome,

and that's caused by the
Coronavirus that emerged in 2002

and caused a pandemic in 2003

Infecting more than 8000
people around the world

Studies of SARS patients who recovered,

showed their antibody levels
peaked around 2 to 4 months

and that they offered
protection for 2 to 3 years

So is this a timeline
that we might consider

for SARS-COV-2

Well, there are some studies that show

that when our bodies are
infected with SARS-COV-2,

we produce what we call a
neutralizing antibodies

And these can stick around
and offer protection

for a couple of weeks

That's what the early studies are showing

But clearly a couple
of weeks is a ways off

from two to three years

I think the glimmer of hope might be

that there's so much genetic
similarity between SARS-COV-2,

and SARS-COV-1

[upbeat music]

Another good comparison we have right now

is to the four Coronaviruses
that caused the cold

immunity to these seasonal Coronaviruses

starts fading just after a
few months and within a year

Most people are vulnerable to reinfection,

meaning it won't go away

It will still infect people,

but it won't cause such serious disease

and it won't cause so many infections

So that's a possible
scenario that we might see

with the new Coronavirus

[upbeat music]

So on the other end of
the immunity spectrum

compared to where we started is HIV

People with HIV do develop
antibodies to the virus,

but either those antibodies
don't stick around for long,

or the virus has really cunning ways

to hide from the antibodies

That's partly because HIV
is constantly mutating

every time it's
replicating inside the body

that makes the virus a moving
target for our immune system

Some good news on the COVID-19 front,

is that this Coronavirus
does not seem to mutate

anywhere near as
frequently as HIV mutates

That means it stays a much more consistent

and it means we have far
less of a moving target

And because of that,

some experts are saying that reinfection

with the new Coronavirus
could be less likely

just because the virus
isn't changing so much

So our immune systems recognize
it and know how to fight it

But I still think it's way too early

to be saying that reinfection is unlikely

just because of how new this virus is

and how much we're learning day to day

So we don't know exactly where COVID-19

is gonna fit along this immunity spectrum

But let's say you get
infected with the virus

and it does give you antibodies
that hang around for months,

maybe even a year or so

In that scenario,

you can start thinking about herd immunity

as one way out of the pandemic

Herd immunity is when a
significant proportion

of the population has
become immune to a disease

Either through becoming
infected or being vaccinated,

and when herd immunity is achieved,

it stops a disease spreading like wildfire

through a population

That exact proportion of
people that need to be immune

to a disease in order to
achieve herd immunity

It varies from pathogen to pathogen

and it depends on how
infectious a microbe is

We're still a ways off from
thinking about herd immunity

as our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic

for at least two reasons

The first being that
we just don't know yet

how long those antibodies
will hang around for

and how protective they'll be

But second, because for
herd immunity for COVID-19,

you'd need between 50%
to 70% of a population

to become immune

And we don't have a vaccine yet,

meaning we'd have to see a
lot of people just get sick

from the virus and that's not

a feasible way out of the pandemic

And finally, there's that
question about antibody testing

I think if we get studies that show us

how protective antibodies
are to this virus

and how long those
antibodies stick around

Then in that case,

widespread antibody testing
could be really useful,

especially if it's a quick
fingerprint blood test

to help us understand who is immune,

for whom is it safe to go back to work

and how quickly could we start
resuming normal activities?

But even if a large number
of people have been infected,

recovered, and have immunity,

it's still not gonna trigger
a sudden reopening of society

There's gonna have to be
a gradual peeling back

of containment measures
like sheltering in place

to make sure that we're
constantly guarding

against a second wave and
against future outbreaks

And that's gonna be our reality
until we have a vaccine

Thanks so much for watching

Drop your questions here
in the comments below

or reach out to me on social media

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