Coronaviruses that cause the common cold can infect people repeatedly, hinting that immunity to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 might be similarly short-lived.
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.
When blood samples show an increase in the number of antibodies targeting a specific virus, as compared with prior samples, that means that the person’s immune system is fighting off a new infection. The researchers determined how