According to a new study, the number of people who have tested positive for having antibodies to fight the novel coronavirus has dropped rapidly in recent months, tumbling 26 percent. The finding is significant because it puts into question the ability of populations to achieve herd immunity -- a concept that relies on populations with antibodies increasing, not decreasing.
Per the BBC, 60 out of 1,000 people in the United Kingdom tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies at the end of June. But by September, only 44 out of 1,000 citizens were positive.
Wendy Barclay, who leads the infectious disease department at Imperial College in London, weighed in on the recent study of 365,000 individuals that showed a drop in immunity.
"We can see the antibodies and we can see them declining and we know antibodies on their own are quite protective," she said. "On the balance of evidence, I would say it would look as if immunity declines away at the same rate as antibodies decline away, and that this is an indication of waning immunity."
It appears that those with asymptomatic cases experience a more rapid decline in immunity than those who exhibited symptoms. Older people had fewer antibodies to begin with, and these declined over time. Younger individuals had a slower decline.
This could mean that it's possible to be reinfected with the virus. However, it isn't clear whether the second infection would be as serious as the first. So far, there have only been a few confirmed cases of reinfection, but researchers suggested that this could be because the pandemic peaked in the U.K. in March and April. This means that immunity could just be fading now.
The findings raise the question of whether or not a vaccine will be effective against the disease. However, scientists say that it's still possible that inoculation can provide immunity.
"The big picture is after the first wave, the great majority of the country didn't have evidence of protective immunity," said Professor Graham Cooke. "The need for a vaccine is still very large, the data doesn't change that."
"The vaccine response may behave differently to the response to natural infection," added Professor Paul Elliott.
The White House has touted the idea of working toward herd immunity by allowing young individuals to become infected with COVID-19 to help life return to normal again. However, the U.S. has experienced a surge of the virus in recent days, with the country reporting the highest number of new cases in a single day last week, as The Inquisitr previously noted.