AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Inside the labs at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG), researchers are testing samples to learn how COVID-19 can be killed. It is part of Sparta, a $1.9 million study funded by the the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, involving MCG, the University of Georgia, UCLA and St Jude’s Research Hospital. At MCG, Dr. Ravindra Kolhe and his team collect blood and saliva from 500 participants each month to learn how long natural COVID-19 antibodies last and how strong they are.
“Everyone responds differently,” Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, the director of the Georgia Esoteric and Molecular Laboratory at MCG, explains. “Not everyone produces a good amount of antibodies, and not all of those antibodies have a good amount of capacity to kill the virus.”
Findings show participants, who were infected with COVID-19 in 2020, only had enough natural antibodies to fight the virus for eight to 10 months. The antibodies they produced were not as strong in fighting variants of the virus.
“People have to understand that if you were infected sometime last year, the antibodies produced by your body, which is a natural antibody, are produced against the original virus. Those antibodies are not that effective against the new or mutated strains of the virus, like the Delta, Lambda or Delta plus.”
Once those participants got vaccinated, they developed a high level of stronger antibodies.
“If you take 100 vaccinated individuals, only one percent, or one of them, is actually getting symptomatically re-infected with the mutated strain. But if you take 100 unvaccinated individuals, 100 percent of them are re-infected by the mutated virus.”
“Having a vaccination is extremely critical to prevent reinfection,” he adds.
This research will be key in determining if booster shots will be needed. Kolhe says it is still too early to know.
“We need at least one year of data to see what happens to the level as well as capacity of these antibodies to neutralize the infection.”
How to take part in Sparta Study
MCG is recruiting participants for the Sparta study. Participants are asked to give blood and saliva samples monthly.