Scientists predict the virus will be with us for the long run, but probably as just another common cold.
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, many doctors, researchers, journalists and public health officials spent considerable energy describing how the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not "just another flu" but something far more deadly and debilitating.
Now, with at least three effective vaccines being rolled out overseas and local vaccination programmes an ever-closer prospect, scientists are turning their attention to the long-term prospects of Covid-19.
In a 5 January commentary published in Nature Reviews Immunology, Marc Veldhoen of the University of Lisbon and J Pedro Simas of the Catholic University of Portugal draw on recent data that show that antibodies in people who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, as well as those who have been vaccinated against it, persist for more than six months. After that people become increasingly vulnerable to reinfection.
Veldhoen and Simas argue that the behaviour of the virus and the body's immune response is closely aligned to other coronaviruses. There are already four coronaviruses circulating through the human population that cause common colds, mild upper respiratory tract infections that are seldom fatal.
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