Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology say the immunity of the recovered patients would help to slow the spread of the contagion. The reintroduction of recovered COVID-19 patients would, in theory, help reduce the rate of transmission of the coronavirus.
If recovered patients were to be released into the general population, this would ensure most interactions include an immune person, which makes it impossible for the virus to propagate.
This is known as the “shield immunity” strategy.
Shield immunity is a different concept to herd immunity and is designed to reduce interactions that would pass on the virus.
This approach could be used together with existing precautions, such as social distancing, contact tracing and self-isolation.
People who have caught COVID-19 and recovered from the disease may soon rejoin the general public
Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology say the immunity of the recovered patients would help to slow the spread of the contagion
Immune individuals could play a key role in helping society return to normality while also helping fight the pandemic, scientists claim.
However, the study is only valid if recovered people are absolutely virus negative.
This would mean they produce antibodies to defend them against the coronavirus and are able to interact safely with both susceptible and infectious people.
However, scientists cannot yet prove this.
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Shield immunity is designed to reduce interactions that would pass on the virus
The Shield immunity approach also relies on immunity lasting for more than a year.
This wold also require 100 per cent accurate antibody testing kits being available to all.
Currently, scientists are unable to guarantee any of these things.
The study tested “Shield immunity” on a model population of ten million people under two scenarios.
One was a scenario with a high rate of transmission (R0=2.33) and one with a low rate of transmission (R0=1.57).
Shield immunity could be used together with existing precautions, such as social distancing, contact tracing and self-isolation
Immune individuals could play a key role in helping society return to normality
Two forms of shielding were tested, intermediate and advanced, according to the study.
In the high-transmission scenario, 71,000 deaths were predicted if the R0 was not altered.
However, this dropped to 58,000 and 20,000 deaths under intermediate and advanced shielding, respectively.
Many have feared those who have had coronavirus may not have immunity as more research is yet to be done on how long immunity lasts.
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However, the coronavirus is unlikely to re-infect people according to experts.
Research suggests those who continue to test positive for the virus are just expelling dead cells, experts have revealed.
There have been numerous cases of people still testing positive for coronavirus after they had seemingly recovered.
In South Korea, there are more than 100 incidents of people testing negative for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), having previously tested positive, before being positive several weeks later.
The Shield immunity approach also relies on immunity lasting for more than a year
This has led to fears people can be re-infected by the virus.
However, experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO) believe it is unlikely people can be re-infected so soon after having the disease, but the long term data of re-infections is not available for obvious reasons.
A spokesperson for the WHO said: “We are aware that some patients test positive after they clinically recover. From what we currently know – and this is based on very recent data – it seems they these patients are expelling left over materials from their lungs, as part of the recovery phase.
“We also need to understand if this means they can pass the virus to other people – having live virus does not necessarily mean it can be passed to another person.”