This week’s Immunity Study at Imperial College London certainly makes for a sober reading. The React-2 study, which asked about 350,000 people in England to send antibody tests by finger prick from home, suggests that protective antibodies against Covid-19 decline “fairly quickly” after the first infection, according to researcher Prof. Helen Ward.
In the first round of testing over the summer, about 60 out of 1,000 people had antibodies detected. But that number dropped to 44 by September. This suggests that patients may be susceptible to re-infection with Covid only a few months after first being caught, and that “herd immunity” may be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Once a vaccine is developed, older and vulnerable people may need to receive it at least twice a year.
Doctors, however, note that antibodies are not the only weapon in the body’s defenses: T cells also play a role, killing infected cells; while B-memory cells rapidly produce new antibodies after being threatened by a virus.
“We can see the antibodies and we can see them decrease and we know that the antibodies themselves are quite protective,” he said. Wendy Barkley for the BBC. “As a balance of evidence, I would say that it would look like immunity is declining at the same rate as antibodies are declining, and that this is an indication of a decline in immunity.”
But as grim as the news may be, there are steps we can take now to boost our immunity:
Adequate sleep (between six and nine hours a night, according to the NHS) is “the foundation of your immune system,” according to Dr. Enena Machiochi, an immunologist at the University of Sussex. During sleep, our bodies produce melatonin, which helps build new immune cells. “If you do not sleep, no other measure of life will make much difference,” she said.
Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can be difficult when locking. To help you, Dr. Guy Meadows, founder of the Sleep School, recommends sticking to a rigorous routine, avoiding caffeine after lunch, and drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol. If you work from home, he adds, try a “fake job” in which you go for 10 minutes every morning and evening to “shift your mind from work to home”.
A colorful, low-carb Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables will nourish your body with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, helping you fight infection, doctors say. Broccoli, red peppers and blueberries are especially recommended.
“Eat fruits and vegetables whole and ideally with the skin, as they contain essential fiber that nourishes healthy bugs in your digestive tract, key to fighting infections,” advises Dr. Claire Bailey, a family doctor and author of an 8-week diet with blood sugar Recipe book.
Exercising during the day strengthens your lymphatic system, which is essential to help your immune cells perform their function of monitoring hostile viruses. “Regular and frequent is the key,” says Dr. Machiochi.
Vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of respiratory infection, according to an analysis of 25 studies published in the British Medical Journal in 2017. Another study, which combined data from 16 clinical trials involving 7,400 people, found that taking vitamin D supplements reduced the risk of catching at least one respiratory infection – including influenza and pneumonia – by a third, with benefits seen within three weeks.
In contrast, there is little evidence that Vitamin C prevents infection – but it can shorten symptoms after you become infected. Oranges, kiwi fruit, spinach, grapefruit and cauliflower are useful here, as well as toppings.
Drinking plenty of water is “critically important for the very neglected,” according to immunologist Dr. Ross Walton. The NHS recommends six to eight glasses a day. Dehydration damages the mucus layer in your respiratory tract – this contains important antibodies. Tea and coffee are less effective because they are diuretics (meaning they speed up the excretion of water from the body through urine).
Read more: Do not panic; Covid’s immunity is not over – here’s why