COVID-19 antibodies last at least three months; so do symptoms for many

By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) - The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

COVID-19 antibodies last at least three months
People infected with COVID-19 develop antibodies to the new coronavirus that last for at least three months. This emerges from two reports published in Science Immunology on Thursday. The two studies, which together enrolled nearly 750 patients, suggest that immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies, which show up well after an infection started, are considered to be the longest-lasting. The researchers found that IgG antibodies targeting two targets - a spike protein on the virus that helps infect cells and a part of the spike called the receptor binding domain (RBD) - lasted for more than 100 days. While the protective effects of COVID-19 antibodies are not fully understood, Jen Gommerman of the University of Toronto, co-author of the study, said her team also found levels of so-called neutralizing antibodies, which inactivate the virus, "seemed very stable." The other study from Harvard Medical School reported similar results. This means that a properly designed vaccine "should produce a sustained antibody response that has the potential to neutralize the virus," Gommerman said. Her group also found that antibodies in saliva correlated with antibodies in the blood, but at this point the saliva tests are not sensitive enough to replace blood tests. (https://bit.ly/2GSo5Id; https://bit.ly/33NEOFE)

COVID-19 symptoms last for many months
Three months after the illness, many COVID-19 patients still have symptoms, two studies confirm, and the more severe the initial infections, the greater the likelihood of persistent problems. In Spain, doctors checked 108 patients, including 44 seriously ill. 12 weeks after diagnosis, 76% still reported after-effects, 40% reported three or more health problems related to coronavirus, doctors said in an article published on medRxiv on Thursday prior to the assessment. The most common complaints were shortness of breath, physical weakness, cough, chest pain, palpitations, and mental and cognitive disorders. In a similar study of 233 US COVID-19 patients - eight of whom were seriously ill - one in four still had symptoms 90 days after their first illness. The rates were higher in sick patients: 59.4% after 30 days and 40.6% after 90 days. "But even in very mild and initially asymptomatic cases, 14.3% have complications lasting 30 days or longer," the authors reported on medRxiv on Sunday. In the US study, the most common persistent symptoms were odor and taste disorders, difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, memory loss, confusion, headache, palpitations, chest pain, pain with deep breaths, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat. (https://bit.ly/3iPD2rN; https://bit.ly/2SKk0IK)

Remdesivir cut COVID-19 recovery time by 5 days
Final data from a large study of Gilead Sciences Inc's antiviral drug Remdesivir showed the treatment reduced COVID-19 recovery time in hospitalized patients by five days, one day faster than preliminary data indicated, researchers reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The 1,062 patient study compared up to 10 days of therapy with remdesivir - sold as Veklury in some markets - with placebo. The average recovery time was 10 days for those who received the Gilead drug versus 15 days for the placebo group. In patients who initially needed oxygen, those who took remdesivir continued to need oxygen for an average of 13 days, compared with 21 days in those who received placebo. In a separate analysis that looked only at patients receiving oxygen, the drug appeared to reduce the risk of death by 70% over the next month. "We now have data suggesting that giving remdesivir to oxygenated patients can significantly reduce their likelihood of death compared to other subgroups," said Dr. Andre Kalil, an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and lead researcher on the study, issued a press release. (https://bit.ly/33QU44F; https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN26T3K5)

Coronavirus rarely migrates from mother to newborn
Transmission of the new coronavirus from mothers to newborns is rare, doctors at Irving Medical Center at New York-Presbyterian / Columbia University reported in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday. They examined 101 babies from 100 mothers with COVID-19, including 10 whose mothers were critically ill. Almost all babies tested negative for the virus, while tests in two newborns showed uncertain results. When these two indeterminate results are considered positive, the total transmission frequency was 2.0%. Even with a transmission rate of 2%, "none of our babies showed clinical symptoms of COVID-19, either during their stay in the newborn kindergarten or in the first weeks of life," said co-author Dr. Dani Dumitriu via email to Reuters Health. About 90% of the newborns were at least partially breastfed. "As the country gets into a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know that separating affected mothers from their newborns may not be justified and direct breastfeeding seems safe," said study co-author Dr. Melissa Stockwell said. (https://bit.ly/354AwJB)

Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3a5EyDh in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines and treatments in development.

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Julie Steenhuysen, and Will Boggs; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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