Dec 5, 2020 - Health

WHO: COVID-19 reinfections may occur as antibodies diminish

Picture of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization officials warned Friday that although it's rare, recent data suggests some people may become reinfected with the coronavirus as their antibody response diminishes, CNBC reports.

Driving the news: Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said data has emerged that suggests "protection may not be lifelong" for people who have had the coronavirus, and "therefore we may see reinfections begin to occur."

  • According to the CDC, reinfections are expected "based on what we know from similar viruses."
  • Yes, but: The CDC says such cases are still rare.
  • In a recent study from Oxford University, researchers found that people who have had coronavirus are “highly unlikely” to contract the virus again for at least six months following their first infection.

What they're saying: Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said that researchers are still trying to understand how long an antibody response lasts after someone is infected with the coronavirus.

  • "What we understand is 90[%] to 100% of people who are infected with the coronavirus do develop an antibody response," Van Kerkhove said.

Go deeper: Scientists confirm first documented COVID-19 reinfection in the U.S.

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