Is it possible to get COVID-19 multiple times?

How do you become immune to coronavirus?

Nobody had immunity at the start of the pandemic – and knowing more about immunity is crucial for understanding what happens next.

Our immune system is the body’s defense against infection and it comes in two parts.

The first is always ready to go and leaps into action as soon as any foreign invader is detected in the body. It is known as the innate immune response and includes the release of chemicals that cause inflammation and white blood cells that can destroy infected cells.

But this system is not specific to coronavirus. It will not learn and it will not give you immunity to the coronavirus.

Instead, you need the adaptive immune response. This includes cells that produce targeted antibodies that can stick to the virus in order to stop it – and T cells that can attack just the cells infected with the virus called the cellular response.

This takes time – studies suggest it takes about 10 days to start making antibodies that can target the coronavirus and the sickest patients develop the strongest immune response.

If the adaptive immune response is powerful enough, it could leave a lasting memory of the infection that will give protection in the future.

It’s not known if people who have only mild symptoms, or none at all, will develop a sufficient adaptive immune response.

Understanding of the role of T-cells is still developing, but a recent study found people testing negative for coronavirus antibodies may still have some immunity.

For every person testing positive for antibodies, it was found two had T-cells that identify and destroy infected cells.

“They look rather durable and are being made in almost all exposed people,” said Prof Danny Altmann from Imperial College London.

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