Previously-Infected Patients ‘Better Protected’ Against New Infection Than Vaccinated People: Study

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Researchers found that a previous infection may be more beneficial than vaccination against COVID-19 because the former may produce better-performing antibodies. 

Better Protection

In a new study that is to be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases 2022 in Lisbon this coming April, researchers presented crucial information in the fight against SARS-CoV-2. According to the team, previously-infected patients may be better protected against a new infection than those who have only been vaccinated. 

The researchers compared the protection a previous infection gives to patients to the protection the vaccines provide to people. They found that while the shield against re-infection lasts longer in recovered patients, breakthrough infections are becoming increasingly common just six months after vaccination. 

The finding suggests that a prior infection could provide a more sustained immune response than the vaccines. Based on their observations on previously-infected-unvaccinated individuals and double-vaccinated individuals from March 25, 2020, to April 2021, the antibodies from a previous infection performed better than those produced by the vaccines. 

Based on the study’s timeframe, the team surmised that the patients they recruited could have been infected with the original and alpha variants of SARS-CoV-2. Some may have also been infected with the beta strain. It was hard to tell which is which because the laboratory associated with the study did not sequence variants when the study began. 

“While the number of antibodies decrease with time in both COVID-19 recovered (but never vaccinated) patients and vaccinated (but never infected) individuals, the quality of antibodies increases following infection but not after vaccination,” the authors wrote. 

Obesity And Immunity

Another interesting finding that the team uncovered in the middle of the study pointed to the kind of protection obese people developed from a previous infection. Contrary to expectations and former assumptions, obese people infected with COVID-19 produced a more sustained immune response than overweight and normal weight range patients. 

The scientists reported that after analyzing their data, they discovered that patients in the obese range (BMI 30 or higher) developed a higher level of antibodies compared to other patients (BMI under 30). This means they are well protected against a new infection than overweight or normal-weight individuals who also had been previously infected. 

“People with obesity have a significantly higher and sustained antibody-induced immune response following infection. These results provide specific characteristics of the immune response that may explain the differential protection against COVID-19 in previously infected compared with only-vaccinated individuals,” the researchers noted in their study. 

Research leader Dr. Carmit Cohen of the Sheba Medical Center, Ramat Gan, Israel, told SciTechDaily that if their findings are to be believed, the medical community should be doing a follow-up on the patients who have recovered from the earlier variants since they might have “very high antibody performance against most variants.”

However, it would be more challenging for the team to further prove their findings with new studies moving forward because Israel, where they conducted their research, now has a very high vaccination rate. It would be difficult for them to obtain data from never-vaccinated and previously-infected individuals from here on out. 

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