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“Have I had coronavirus and, if so, am I immune?”
It’s the question many of us want to ask – but it isn’t an easy one to answer.
Immunity is defined as being able to resist a particular disease. Specifically, it’s the “protection against a particular disease or illness by particular substances in the blood”, according to the Cambridge Dictionary.
So, if you were immune to Covid-19, it would mean you could be exposed to the virus again and it wouldn’t affect you or cause any nasty symptoms.
But can that actually happen? We asked an expert to explain the science – here’s what he wants you to know.
What are antibodies and do they give me immunity?
Some people who have tested positive for coronavirus have developed antibodies in their blood – these are molecules produced by the immune system to fight infection. In theory, it’s thought people with antibodies would be able to fight the virus if they caught it again.
But as it stands, the World Health Organisation says there’s “no evidence” that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are definitely protected from a second infection. Professor Danny Altmann, an immunology expert from Imperial College London, isn’t aware of any evidence either.
That said, there’s a growing belief that antibodies may protect us from the virus. Harvard scientists did a small study with macaques, where they deliberately infected monkeys with the virus. A month later, the monkeys were reinfected and they didn’t become ill – the scientists found they had developed antibodies.
Test tube experiments have also shown a certain type of antibody – the ‘neutralising antibody’...