No Rule Book with Novel Coronavirus

The coronavirus is an evolving story and scientists are beginning to wonder if this virus has read the rule book on antibodies.

By Dr. Veita Bland

April 24, 2020 11:14AM
Dr. Veita Bland
Veita Bland

As I sit down to write this article, the coronavirus has resulted in the deaths of more than 25,000 Americans. The numbers are sobering; to say the least, but this number will surely increase by the time this article is published.

Fortunately, Americans have been hunkering down and practicing social isolation because we have been told that if this social isolation had not occurred, we would be seeing even more deaths.

We are hearing now of the horrors of people placed on the life-saving ventilators. It is also becoming more apparent that what is left behind in the healing bodies of those affected is also very bad. We are seeing the horrible physical toll on the bodies of those affected; the weakness that some have and the so-called coronavirus brain fog or loss of mental activity affected. We also see the mental anguish of those affected resulting in depression, anxiety and worse.

The physical, financial and emotional toll that we are all suffering is indeed sobering as we all struggle to define a new norm that seems to be ever changing.

What is our way out of this?

We hope the development of a test that would define a person’s immunity status could be the answer. In a “normal” world when a person’s body has been exposed to a virus, it develops antibodies. This is the body’s efficient way of recognizing a foe and setting up a defense mechanism to prevent it from affecting us again. This theory is the basis of immunizations. It is the basis of the annual flu vaccine that most of us should get each year.

This is indeed an evolving story but scientists are beginning to wonder if the coronavirus has read the rule book on antibodies. The antibodies that are developed by the body’s defense mechanism should be durable. We get a Tetanus vaccine every 10 to 15 years, a flu vaccine once a year; for older people, a pneumonia vaccine once or twice in some cases. The antibodies that those immunizations produce are durable. They stay around and protect one for a while. But we are not sure about the coronavirus.

The antibodies of people recovered from the coronavirus are now being used in studies to treat people, who are quite ill with the virus. This treatment has garnered some success but questions remain.

Are the antibodies remaining around long enough to ensure protection for extended periods of time? We do not know. How protective are these antibodies? Can they get the job done? We do not know.

Antibodies are used to determine if one has been exposed to a particular infection and thus have immunity to that infection. As you have no doubt heard, there has been quite a problem with developing an antibody test to determine whether a person has developed immunity for the coronavirus.

This is most important because some see these tests as a way of determining whether society can re-open and regain some of its normality. So far, the coronavirus did not read the rulebook and is not playing by the rules. Only time and more testing will give us a clear picture.

Again, this is an evolving story, one that is very important. We will need to keep our eyes on it.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at