Advertisement

Researchers expect coronavirus patients will become immune, but more study needed: expert

Coronavirus outbreak: Expectation of immunity against COVID-19 for those who have been exposed: Kindrachuk
Expectation of immunity against COVID-19 for those who have been exposed: Kindrachuk.

For those who have already recovered from COVID-19, how long might they be protected from reinfection?

That’s the million-dollar question, but there’s hope the virus that causes COVID-19 behaves like other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS, said Jason Kindrachuk, Canada research chair in molecular pathogenesis and of emerging and re-emerging viruses.

Coronavirus outbreak: Health Canada approves first clinical trial for possible coronavirus vaccine
Coronavirus outbreak: Health Canada approves first clinical trial for possible coronavirus vaccine

“What we understand right now, if we look back at coronaviruses — and most infectious diseases to be fair — we know that people will basically have an immune response once they get exposed and most times what that will lead to is the generation of antibodies,” he told Mercedes Stephenson on The West Block Sunday.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Health Canada approves first clinical trial for possible coronavirus vaccine

“And what we rely on those antibodies for, is to protect us when we are re-exposed to that same pathogen. So the hope is here — and some of the data is starting to suggest — that when we look at people that have been infected and have recovered, they do develop antibodies.”

But researchers don’t yet know how long those antibodies will last, or how protective they are, said Kindrachuk, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba. He expects researchers to gain more perspective in the months ahead.

Coronavirus outbreak: Could immunity passports become the new normal?
Coronavirus outbreak: Could immunity passports become the new normal?

“So we’re working on this as quickly as possible but again, we’re five months into this pandemic and from the emergence of this virus to the world for the first time,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

In South Korea, several dozen coronavirus patients believed to have recovered later tested positive, though experts have said reinfection was unlikely.

READ MORE: Canada authorizes use of first blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies

Kindrachuk’s comments aired days after Canada approved its first antibody test for the novel coronavirus.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Health Canada said that at least one million Canadian blood samples would be collected and tested over the next two years to track the virus in both the general population and in groups that are at higher risk of being infected, such as health-care workers and the elderly.

Blood testing will be an important element of the virus response effort, Kindrachuk said.

“It’s critical for us to really understand how far this virus disseminated within our different communities, to not only gain perspective of ultimately how many cases did we face, so what can we anticipate from that for potential second waves, but also start to get some indications on potential immunity and immune protection in those people that have been exposed.”

On Friday, Health Canada approved the first Canadian trial for a possible coronavirus vaccine.

—With files from David Lao, Global News

Story continues below advertisement