coronavirus in connecticut

Q&A: How Can Understanding Antibodies Further the Fight Against Covid-19?

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We hear a lot about the importance of getting vaccinated. And that remains what doctors and health leaders say is the best way to prevent severe illness and death from Covid-19. A lot of the research around the virus and its impacts is happening in Connecticut, including a new study from Yale that finds that in the fight against Covid-19, the best long-term weapon might be antibodies.

Dr. Benjamin Israelow, an infectious disease instructor with the Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study, sat down with NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran to talk about it.

Dan: "So Ben, thanks for being here. So tell us about what this study aimed to find. And what you actually did find."

Dr. Israelow: "What we found was that the antibody response that develops either to natural infection or to vaccination was really superior in providing protection over the T cell response, that that provided that protection."

Dan: "So the mRNA-based vaccines like Moderna or Pfizer, they prompt an antibody response. But how are those different than the antibodies that you'd get if you were infected with the virus?"

Dr. Israelow: "We see higher levels of circulating antibodies in response to these vaccines than to natural infection. And then in terms of differences in the response, both natural infection and the vaccine induce a response to the outside of the virus, the spike protein, which is required for the virus to enter into cells and infect us, and so that our antibodies are generating against that like protein and prevent infection by the virus itself."

Dan: "All right, I'm trying to understand this. And I want to make sure our viewers understand this. So say you're fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But then you become one of those breakthrough cases. Obviously, that's not a good thing. But would that decrease your chances of getting Covid yet again, according to what you found?"

Dr. Israelow: "If somebody who has been fully vaccinated and then had a breakthrough infection that that breakthrough infection with further boosts their protective immunity for the future? Obviously, there are some people who don't mount good immune responses, you know, a healthy individual who had a breakthrough infection, I would suspect that they had, you know, they have, you know, an even more boosted antibody response.

Dan: "And as you know, right now, there's a lot of talk about booster shots. So what kind of role would booster shots play in this context? Would that increase the antibodies in protection significantly more?"

Dr. Israelow: "Would a booster increase somebody's antibody response? I think the answer is yes. Would it provide, you know, significant more protection? It probably depends on the individual at this point. I don't see that we have a significant amount of data that in healthier individuals, boosters are necessarily needed."

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