According to University of Queensland research, being overweight can reduce the body’s antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 infection but not immunization.
The discovery builds on the team’s previous research on COVID-19’s effects on overweight persons, according to research lead Marcus Tong of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. The study appears in Clinical & Translational Immunology.
“We’ve previously shown that being overweight—not just being obese—increases the severity of SARS-CoV-2,” Mr. Tong.
“But this work shows that being overweight creates an impaired antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 infection but not to vaccination.”
At three to 13 months post-infection, the research team collected blood samples from COVID-19-free participants.
“At three months post-infection, an elevated BMI was associated with reduced antibody levels,” Mr. Tong.
“And at 13 months post-infection, an elevated BMI was associated with both reduced antibody activity and a reduced percentage of the relevant B cells, a type of cell that helps build these COVID-fighting antibodies.”
At six months following the second COVID-19 immunization, an elevated BMI did not affect antibody response.
Associate Professor Kirsty Short said the findings should impact health policy.
“If infection is associated with an increased risk of severe disease and an impaired immune response for the overweight, this group has a potentially increased risk of reinfection,” stated Dr. Short.
“It makes it more important than ever for this group to ensure they’re vaccinated.”
Dr. Short said this evidence questions booster and lockdown strategies from a public health perspective.
“We’d suggest that more personalized recommendations are needed for overweight people, both for ongoing COVID-19 management and future pandemics,” stated.
“Finally, the data provides an added impetus to improve SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in low-income countries, where there’s a high percentage of people who are overweight and are dependent on infection-induced immunity.”
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