Immunity to coronavirus in recovered patients may only last a few months, a new study suggests.
According to the research from King's College London, immunity antibodies decrease significantly in the three months following infection, leaving patients susceptible to reinfection year after year – similar to the common cold.
In what is believed to be the first longitudinal study of its kind, researchers looked into the immune response of 90 patients and healthcare workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.
While the analysis revealed a "potent" level of antibodies could be found in 60 per cent of participants while at the peak of their battle with coronavirus, sequential blood tests showed only 17 per cent sustained that same level of potency three months later.
Antibodies decreased 23-fold in some cases, and were depleted entirely in others.
The research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, states that its findings have "important implications" when considering antibody testing and the "durability of vaccine protection".
It added: "Further studies using sequential samples from these individuals is required to fully determine the longevity of the (antibody) response and studies determining the (antibodies’) threshold for protection from re-infection are needed."
It comes after a leading scientist in the UK warned there was "no certainty" that any of the vaccines currently being developed will be successful, as it is dependent on the level of immunity needed to prevent infection.
Professor Robin Shattock, who heads a team developing a vaccine at Imperial College London, said a vaccine could be rolled out across the country in the first half of next year if trials are successful.
But he said scientists developing a vaccine currently do not know what level of immunity people need to prevent infection, which makes the chance of success "difficult to predict".
Some 15 volunteers have been vaccinated for the trial so far, which will be ramped up to include another 200-300 participants in the “coming weeks”, he said.