How Long Do Antibodies Remain in Your System?
The specific lifespan of antibodies differs from each type of antibody, the individual involved, and the infection involved. Certain individuals may have conditions that affect the production of antibodies, but the two main types of antibodies that are initially produced in an infection are IgM and IgG antibodies. IgM antibodies are the first antibodies that are created usually after the first two weeks upon infection and have shorter lifespans than IgG antibodies. They are the acute response to the infection and findings of these in an antibody test may suggest that an individual has an active or recent infection for the disease tested for. Typically, after the initial phase and threat of infection, specific IgG antibodies are made several weeks later. These IgG antibodies are specifically made to combat that infection and remains in your system to help protect you from it in the future. These IgG antibodies can remain in the body ranging from weeks to years depending on the infection and person involved, so, knowing the exact time frame that these antibodies remain in the body can be unclear and unique to different pathogens.
The specific lifespan of antibodies differs from each type of antibody, the individual involved, and the infection involved.
For example, the common flu reappears due to the constant mutations the virus undergoes. Even though lgG antibodies are created for one type of the virus, it does not recognize the mutated type which then causes recurring sickness. You can even have pathogens that have unique abilities that allow them to evade or subvert antibodies or other defenses.
The common flu reappears due to the constant mutations the virus undergoes.
We get estimations of antibody lifespans by analyzing people that have been infected by a specific pathogen in the past. For instance, in a study involving people who were infected with West Nile Virus (WNV), it was found that nine out of the ten individuals tested had WNV lgG antibodies three years after initial infection. Studies like this can give us insight on how resilient our bodies can possibly be to different diseases. However, long-term immunity also stems from the aforementioned B cells as well.
When B cells produce antibodies, they also make what are called memory B cells that are made for a particular pathogen. These specialized memory B cells are designed to identify the familiarized pathogen in the future and more quickly create the specific antibodies to neutralize them more efficiently. Depending on the disease, these memory b cells have the potential to remain in the body for a lifetime, as seen in a study by co-author Dr. Eric Altschuler of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. In the study, blood samples from survivors of the deadly 1918 flu were taken 90 years after their encounter with the virus—it was found that they still had viable memory B cells that were able to create antibodies that successfully neutralizes it. For this specific flu virus, we may postulate that our bodies have the ability for long-term immunity for possibly decades.
Blood samples from survivors of the deadly 1918 flu were taken 90 years after their encounter with the virus—it was found that they still had viable memory B cells that were able to create antibodies that successfully neutralizes it.
Our bodies truly have a myriad of capabilities to protect us from the threat of infections. Antibodies are a vital component to our defense but understanding them and the intricacies of our immune system response, especially to acquired specific infections, is the resolution to learning the lifespan of the antibodies we produce.