They are the body’s natural big guns when it comes to COVID-19: neutralizing antibodies that should, in theory, kill off the coronavirus.

But new research suggests it doesn’t take long after an infection for those antibodies to retreat – and that may have implications for long-term immunity to COVID-19.

South Korean scientists looked at around 20 symptomatic and asymptomatic coronavirus patients. They found all had developed neutralizing antibodies two months after infection, but the symptomatic group had a higher amount or titer than the asymptomatic group.

But by five months, levels in both groups had declined.

Between the two groups combined, the mean antibody titer dropped from 219 to 143.

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