New scientific evidence shows strong signs of immunity in patients who have overcome the Covid-19 coronavirus, which may lead to herd immunity, Greek Health Ministry Spokesperson Sotiris Tsiodras said on Monday.
In his daily briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, the noted epidemiologist related the recent findings to the coveted situation of herd immunity and said that scientists are now focusing on whether or not the infected population can truly become immune to Covid-19.
This factor would be decisive for its containment, Tsiodras said.
More than 60 tests are being conducted in an effort to determine if patients who have recovered from Covid-19 do indeed carry antibodies to the virus. These individuals are under constant scrutiny and evaluation by researchers who are desperate to find an answer for the contagion which has swept over the globe.
Based on data from similar coronaviruses to date, including the SARS and MERS viruses, it appears that after infection from the new coronavirus, most people will have some degree of immunity which will remain for one year, Tsiodras said.
“Some will have a higher degree of immunity than others. It seems that the duration of this response with antibodies, based on the data from other coronaviruses so far, will last at least a year, with a possible reduction afterwards,” the epidemiologist said.
“If it is true that the infection creates immunity in most — if not all — individuals, and that this protection lasts a year or more, then the infection of more people in any population will lead to the accumulation of so-called herd immunity, and to its containment to a significant extent,” Tsiodras pointed out.
In practice, he explained, this means that an infected person is less and less likely to come in contact with a person that has not been infected, and is therefore susceptible to infection.
If herd immunity is widespread enough, the number of new infections will be reduced significantly, even without other precautionary measures to prevent transmission. The virus’s spread will then be reduced or completely eradicated until individuals’ immunity is weakens over time.
The epidemiologist also stated that experimental plasma therapy in severely ill patients, using antibodies taken from patients who have recovered from Covid-19 will be conducted in seven outpatient clinics this week. The coordinator of this program will be University of Athens Rector Thanos Dimopoulos.
“If the experimental treatment proves effective, it will be another therapeutic weapon in the hands of doctors,” Tsiodras said.
The epidemiologist said that over the weekend the Committee of Experts discussed a protocol for the plasma infusion treatment of sick patients to treat the infection as a multicenter phase 2 study, coordinated by the Rector of the University of Athens.
The study will include plasma collection from donors, which will then be administered to patients who are currently seriously ill with Covid-19.
Tsiodras said that the protocol will be submitted to the scientific councils of the seven participating hospitals this week in order for the study to be able to proceed immediately.
Plasma will be collected from volunteers who suffered from the Covid-19 coronavirus, but who have recovered fully, have no symptoms whatsoever and test negative for the presence of the virus for at least 2 weeks.
“The research is still characterized as experimental, and its application in our country is important, but we still cannot talk about its results or its use as a final means of protection for seriously ill people,” Tsiodras stated.