With multiple strains of Covid-19 wandering around the world, the interaction between them and the antibodies produced for each of them respectively has been worrying scientists for quite some time. Now, a new research has found that a strain known as “P.1” is able to reinfect people who’ve already recovered from other Covid-19 variants.
According to the study, P.1 is somewhere between 1.4 and 2.2 times more transmissible than other lineages of the virus. The researchers also found that P.1 evaded between 25% and 61% of natural immunity gained from a prior infection caused by previous existing strains.
In other words, out of 100 people infected with non-P.1 virus strains that circulated in Manaus last year, between 25 to 61 of them could have been re-infected if exposed to P.1 in Manaus, the researchers said.
The P.1 strain was first discovered in Brazil, December 2020. This new variant is currently spreading rapidly through the city of Manaus, Brazil but it’s also showed up in 24 other countries and numerous U.S. states. P.1, specifically, has been reported in five states to date: Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota and Oklahoma.
Epidemiologist William Hanage of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health told the New York Times that “It’s right to be worried about P.1, and this data gives us a reason why.”
What does this mean?
In short, this discovery means that social distancing, self-isolation, good hygiene, getting vaccinated and mask use are still necessary even for those who’ve recently recovered from Covid-19.
While the study only considered acquired immunity from natural infection and did not study vaccine effectiveness against P.1, vaccines may still be helpful.
“There’s no concluding evidence really to suggest at this point that the current vaccines won’t work against P.1,” said study author Nuno Faria, a virus expert at Imperial College London, during a media briefing. “I think (the vaccines) will at least protect us against disease, and possibly also against infection.”
Still, more testing is necessary as these findings are just from Manaus. “The findings apply to Manaus, but I don’t know if they apply to other places,” said Faria.
“The ultimate message is that you need to step up all the vaccination efforts as soon as possible,” added Faria. “You need to be one step ahead of the virus.”