Monkeys Who Recovered from COVID-19 Are Immune

There is some good news out of the animal kingdom: monkeys infected with COVID-19 were protected from re-infection after recovery. The researchers aren’t sure if their immunity will last, but this is heartening news to people looking for an effective vaccine.

Nine rhesus macaques were infected with COVID-19 and developed symptoms but recovered. Their symptoms were the same as pneumonia in humans. A month later, they were re-exposed to the virus. Their immune systems responded with antibodies that prevented the monkeys from becoming ill. It’s welcome news to people who have recovered from COVID-19 and are scared for their future health.

There is debate about whether people who recover are immune to the virus when re-exposed. For macaques, it seems they “do develop natural immunity that protects against re-exposure,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, a researcher at the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Harvard. “It’s very good news.”

The same group performed another study with six different vaccines in 25 different monkeys. The researchers saw “a substantial degree of protection,” according to Dr. Barouch. Eight of the subjects appeared to be totally protected.

While this is promising, the researchers don’t know how long the monkeys will be protected. However, this means a vaccine may be possible in humans, though we might need booster shots. So many vaccines are in the works. However, no vaccine for a coronavirus virus has ever been successful enough to be approved for use. That’s why we don’t have shots for the common cold.

Over the last few months, scientists have repeatedly said that COVID-19 was very different from other viruses in the same family. That is why it’s hard to treat; the protocols they had in the past haven’t worked. Getting these results from monkeys makes researchers think that a vaccine could work.

Of course, vaccines take a long time to build and test. Even after animal studies, all the human trials need to be performed. Oxford has started a human vaccine trial that will have its first results in November.

While it’s easy to feel alone and hopeless during this crisis, it’s heartening to know that researchers around the world and here at home are working to find answers. This latest news builds to our hope that researchers will get to the bottom of this soon. In the meantime, we’ll do our part to slow the spread by washing our hands, not touching our faces and following safe social distancing.
May 22, 2020

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