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The largest COVID-19 antibody testing programme involving 365,000 participants across England has found coronavirus immunity only lasts a few months.
Researchers at the Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI found antibody response over time varies depending on a person’s age and symptoms.
Over 365,000 adults tested themselves at home using a finger prick test over three months this year to check if they had antibodies against covid.
Researchers estimated just 4.4% of adults had some form of immunity against Covid-19 in September, as cases of the killer virus began to surge agian.
According to the study 6% found to have antibodies between June 20 and July 13, and 4.8% between July 31 and August 31.
Between 20 June and 28 September those who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies declined by 26.5%.
The findings suggest antibodies reduce in the weeks or months after a person is infected.
The results of all three rounds of antibody testing indicate the first wave of the epidemic occurred over a relatively short period in March and April.
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It also found there was a steep decline in the proportion of people who reported having COVID-19 symptoms.
Researchers also found there was a fall in those who tested positive for antibodies from early April, two weeks after national lockdown.
The results suggest that people who did not show symptoms of COVID-19 are likely to lose detectable antibodies sooner than those who did show symptoms.
The findings also show the loss of antibodies was slower in 18–24 year olds compared to those aged 75 and over.
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Health Minister Lord Bethell said:“This study led by Imperial and Ipsos MORI is a critical piece of research, helping us to understand the nature of COVID-19 antibodies over time, and improve our understanding about the virus itself. We rely on this kind of important research to inform our continued response to the disease, so we can continue to take the right action at the right time.
“It is also important that everyone knows what this means for them – this study will help in our fight against the virus, but testing positive for antibodies does not mean you are immune to COVID-19.
“Regardless of the result of an antibody test, everyone must continue to comply with government guidelines including social distancing, self-isolating and getting a test if you have symptoms and always remember Hands, Face, Space.”
The number of people testing positive for antibodies declined gradually in the population regardless of employment type.
The number of health care workers testing positive for antibodies didn’t change over time.
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