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Those infected with old COVID variant might be susceptible to reinfection - NICD

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said people who had recovered usually developed neutralising antibodies, which remained in their blood for at least five to six months - sometimes longer.

FILE: A professional healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) treats a patient in a tent dedicated to the treatment of possible COVID-19 coronavirus patients, while another cleans the ward at the Tshwane District Hospital in Pretoria on 10 July 2020. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Researchers are trying to establish whether those who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected against a variant.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Wednesday said people who had recovered usually developed neutralising antibodies, which remained in their blood for at least five to six months - sometimes longer.

“What we do is we take the new variant and we take the old variant and we test both of them against blood from people who were infected in the first wave and we ask if the new variant is less sensitive to antibodies than the old variant. What that tells us is whether there is an increased risk of infection,” said the institute's Professor Penny Moore.

Moore said they had picked up the new variant was slightly less sensitive to antibodies than the old variant.

“That does raise the possibility that people who were infected with the old variant might be susceptible to reinfection.”

She warned people should stick to safety measures geared at keeping COVID-19 at bay.

“Wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing works just as well against the new variant as they did against the old variant. So, while all this information available in the press might sound alarming, what we do to manage the new variant and continue to manage the pandemic in South Africa doesn’t change.”

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