An all-Italian study, published in the BMJ Global Health journal, is making much discussion and concern in the past few hours, as it claims that those who have fallen ill and recovered from the new Coronavirus are not only not protected for life by antibodies, on the contrary, they risk realizing themselves by developing the most severe form.
The theme is thorny, as the durability of antibodies it has been at the centre of discussions on Sars-CoV-2 since the beginning of the pandemic, and to date, only hypotheses have been put forward regarding the effective duration of the protections. It is in this context that the study published today is the result of the collaboration between the IRCCS Burlo Garofalo of Trieste and some researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Luca Cegolon, an epidemiologist who conducted the study in which he is the first signatory, explained to Repubblica that “we took inspiration for this research by observing the trend of the disease, in particular the high transmissibility and the rate of severe cases in general among health workers, including young people both in Italy and in China, as shown by the case of the thirty-year-old Chinese doctor from Wuhan, deceased and from which everything started “.
According to the epidemiologist, immunity from Sars-Cov-2 acquired through healing would not be permanent is “it does not appear to protect against Coronavirus re-infections“but not only: the antibodies developed could be a boomerang”allying with the virus itself during secondary infections to facilitate entry into the target cells, and suppressing innate immunity and triggering or amplifying an important inflammatory reaction of the organism “. What does this mean? That in case of a second autumn wave, even those who got sick during the first one could get sick again, developing the most severe form.
The reasons are to be found in the very nature of human Coronaviruses, which are “all are known to cause re-infections, regardless of the so-called humoral immunity, that is, the one that is acquired when you get sick by developing antibodies“.
By analyzing the genetic sequence of Sars-CoV-2, it was discovered that it is 80% equal to Sars-Cov and 50% to Mars-Cov, but also the Hades mechanism in infections would be similar and patients affected by the new Coronavirus develop interstitial pneumonia with ARDS, lymphopenia, increased neutrophils, cytokine storm and strong reduction of interferon. The same mechanism has also been observed in viruses such as Dengue and West Nile.
This is not a final study, and in fact, Cegolon specified that “both in Italy and in Britain serological studies are being prepared to verify whether antibodies protect against infection or not. These are researches that focus mainly on health workers because the virus runs more in hospitals both because there are sick people and because they are closed environments “.
If the hypothesis finds confirmation, it would also be difficult to find an effective vaccine. Actually, for no Coronavirus it has been possible to produce and market a vaccine precisely for the reasons explained in a study: “coronaviruses are known to cause re-infections, regardless of acquired immunity“.
In the meantime, however, according to the epidemiologist, prevention and “prepare for autumn with pharmacological interventions that can protect the entrance doors such as, for example, the nose“.
Just today, the statements of Bill Gates on the availability of the vaccine, which should arrive in Italy by the end of 2020, have rebounded.
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