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Coronavirus: Spanish study raises doubts about the feasibility of herd immunity

A Spanish civil guard checks a checkpoint on the highway between the regions of Galicia and Asturias in Ribadeo on July 6, 2020

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The study estimates that only about 5% of the Spanish population developed antibodies

A Spanish study has raised doubts about the feasibility of herd immunity as a means of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The study of more than 60,000 people estimates that only about 5% of the Spanish population has developed antibodies, the medical journal Lancet reported.

Herd immunity is achieved when enough people are infected with a virus to stop it from spreading.

About 70% to 90% of the population must be immune to protect the uninfected.

The prevalence of Covid-1

9 antibodies was less than 3% in coastal regions, but higher in areas of Spain with widespread outbreaks, the report said.

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“Despite the high impact of Covid-19 in Spain, prevalence estimates remain low and clearly not enough to guarantee herd immunity,” the study authors said in the report.

“This cannot be achieved without accepting the collateral damage of many deaths in the vulnerable population and the overloading of health systems.

“In this situation, social distance measures and efforts to identify and isolate new cases and their contacts are essential for future disease control.”

The study is considered to be the largest of its kind for corona virus in Europe.

Similar studies have been conducted in China and the United States, and “the main finding of these representative cohorts is that the majority of the population does not appear to be exposed to the coronavirus,” even in areas with widespread virus circulation, “the Lancet article said.

Prof. Danny Altmann, spokesman for the British Society for Immunology and professor of immunology at Imperial College London, described the study as “sobering”.

“Findings like this confirm the idea that in the face of a fatal infection that induces short-lived immunity, the challenge is to identify the best vaccination strategies to overcome these problems and stimulate a large, sustained, optimal immune response in this way The virus didn’t make it, “said Prof. Altmann.

What’s the latest in Spain?

The country has had more than a quarter of a million cases and at least 28,385 deaths. However, daily deaths have been in the single digits for the past three weeks.

However, officials in the northwestern region of Galicia have again imposed restrictions on an area of ​​70,000 people after an outbreak.

Officials linked local outbreaks to nearby bars. The capacity in bars and restaurants was limited to 50%.

There are currently 258 cases of Covid-19 in Galicia, including 117 in the province of Lugo.

On Saturday, the autonomous government of Catalonia reintroduced control of 210,000 people after a sharp increase in infections.

Catalan President Quim Torra said no one should enter or leave Segrià, a district west of Barcelona that includes the city of Lleida.

The search for a suitable answer

Herd immunity can either be achieved through widespread vaccination or when enough people are exposed to infection and are recovering. If enough people are immune to a disease, it is unlikely to spread from person to person. Running the coronavirus infection and risking many people getting very sick is not an option – this would put too many lives at risk.

And there is currently no coronavirus vaccine – although hundreds are under development. The challenge is to make an impact that provides adequate protection. It needs to train the body’s immune system to learn and remember how to make antibodies that can ward off the coronavirus.

Scientists fear that this “memory” might be too short-lived given the nature of the disease. While some people who contract coronavirus develop protective antibodies, experts still don’t know how long they will last.

Colds are caused by similar viruses and the body’s immune response quickly subsides.

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