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35-year study hints that coronavirus immunity doesn’t last long

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

In a new study, published Sept. 14 in the journal Nature Medicine, scientists monitored 10 individuals for more than 35 years to determine how often they became infected with the four known seasonal coronaviruses. Since these viruses — known as HCoV-NL63, HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1 — either cause mild symptoms of the common cold or no symptoms at all, the team periodically screened the participants' blood for antibodies to spot new cases of infection.

"The new data show that immunity to other coronaviruses tends to be short-lived, with reinfections happening quite often about 12 months later and, in some cases, even sooner," Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), wrote in a commentary about the research. In a few instances, reinfections occurred as early as six months and nine months after a prior infection, the study authors found.

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