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Medical researchers still have much to learn about COVID-19 — including whether or not patients could develop an immunity to it: report

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One of the many questions that the coronavirus pandemic raises is: if one survives COVID-19 and recovers, could that person develop an immunity to it? And according to medical experts interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR), the answer is: maybe or maybe not. Doctors, nurses and researchers cannot say for sure because it is a new disease.

Matt Frieman, who has been researching COVID-19 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, told NPR, “We don't know very much. I think there's a very likely scenario where the virus comes through this year, and everyone gets some level of immunity to it, and if it comes back again, we will be protected from it — either completely or if you do get reinfected later, a year from now, then you have much less disease.”

Frieman added, however, “That is the hope, but there is no way to know that.”

When it comes to diseases like malaria and polio, health experts have a mountain of research to draw on because the medical community has been researching those diseases for generations. But COVID-19 is a new disease, and researchers still have a lot to learn about it about how it does or doesn’t behave.

Ann Falsey of the University of Rochester Medical Center told NPR, “Almost everybody walking around, if you were to test their blood right now, they would have some levels of antibody to the four different coronaviruses that are known.”

And according to virologist Vineet Menachery of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, “We work with some common cold coronaviruses. We have samples from 30 years ago, strains that were saved from 30 years ago — and they’re not appreciably different than the ones that are circulating now.”

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