KUALA LUMPUR — April 28, 2020: A prominent research consultant involved in the discovery of the Nipah virus has stated that Covid-19 patients are likely to have some level of immunity to re-infection.
This is based on past experiences with the related Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses.
According to Universiti Malaya academic Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr. Lam Sai Kit, following the recovery from SARS and MERS, patients had immunity to re-infection for up to three years due to the presence of specific neutralising antibodies.
Lam was also instrumental in developing in-house rapid diagnostic techniques to detect dengue virus.
Based on these other coronavirus infections in humans, Lam personally believes there is some protection following a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“We do not know how good the protection is, and whether it will last for weeks, months or years,” he said in a statement on Tuesday (April 28).
The World Health Organisation had on April 24 issued a brief to say that there was no evidence that people who recovered from Covid-19 had antibodies that protected them from a second infection.
The statement led to strong reactions from the scientific community, which caused WHO to issue a clarification on Sunday, saying that those who had contracted the disease had some level of protection from reinfection.
“What we don’t yet know is the level of protection or how long it will last”, said WHO on Sunday.
Lam is glad WHO has retracted its original brief to lend clarity.
Lam spoke about how monkeys given Covid-19 candidate vaccines in China had shown protection to injection of the virus.
In the case of Covid-19, the antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 is expected to offer some level of protection, although it is not known yet how strong the immunity will be and for how long.
“We have to continue monitoring it to gather more evidence of protection and disease progression,” he said.