“Superhuman” Immunity Against COVID-19: Is it Possible?

“Immunity” against COVID-19 is one of the most researched-upon topics in Science right now– and for good reason. Discussions have been sparking up about the efficacy or lack of efficacy in vaccines as well as achieving herd immunity. 

Because of this, the quality and duration of that immunity are important in determining what kind of immunity would be best for humans and how do we achieve it.

Unfortunately, a human’s adaptive immune system is complex, and these factors may differ between natural immunity (obtained by infection) and vaccine-generated immunity.

There are also speculations about combining certain immunities. How does a person achieve natural immunity? Does contracting the virus and then getting vaccinated make for stronger immunity? Is a “superhuman” kind of immunity somehow possible? 

These are the questions that science attempts to answer. 

“Overall, hybrid immunity to SARS-CoV-2 appears to be impressively potent,” says Shane Crotty, a virologist, and professor in the Vaccine Discovery Division at La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

“These recent findings of SARS-CoV-2 immunology are pleasant surprises and can potentially be leveraged to generate better immunity to COVID-19 and other diseases.”

Crotty defines what he calls “hybrid immunity” as a kind of immunity that can occur when different plant lines are bred together and the hybrid is a much stronger plant.

Recommended Read: How A Single Antibody Can Neutralize COVID-19 Variants?

Something similar happens when natural immunity is combined with vaccine-generated immunity, resulting in 25 to 100 times higher antibody responses, driven by memory B cells and CD4+ T cells and broader cross-protection from variants.

According to the paper Crotty published in the journal Science, “The observations in several studies, including those by Stamatatos et al. and Reynolds et al., are that an impressive synergy occurs—a “hybrid vigor immunity” resulting from a combination of natural immunity and vaccine-generated immunity.

When natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is combined with vaccine-generated immunity, a larger-than-expected immune response arises.”

However, will “hybrid immunity” become the “superhuman” immunity we all need? 

Virologist Theodora Hatziioannou at the Rockefeller University is hopeful but says we should take these new findings with a grain of salt.

“I’m pretty certain that a third shot will help a person’s antibodies evolve even further, and perhaps they will acquire some breadth [or flexibility], but whether they will ever manage to get the breadth that you see following natural infection, that’s unclear.” 

Scientists advise that while we don’t have clear answers yet, it’s best to stay safe by taking precautionary measures to protect ourselves and our families against COVID-19, such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

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