Covid-19: Wearing a mask could help produce immunity

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By letting a few virus-carrying drops pass through, the mask could reduce the severity of Covid-19 while boosting immunity. This is what a new American study reveals.

The mask protects against saliva droplets potentially infected with the coronavirus, which is the main vector of transmission of Covid-19. That is why it is now mandatory in closed public places and even outdoors in many cities.

But this protective device would also have another advantage: it would reduce the severity of the disease by increasing immunity. In any case, this is what a new study led by two researchers at the University of California San Francisco (USA) and published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests.

Covid-19: the mask would promote the manufacture of antibodies

To reach this conclusion, the scientists started from the following observation: the severity of the disease depends on the viral inoculum received, that is, on the amount of virus inhaled.

Thus, the study authors compared the use of masks with variolation, a method of immunization against smallpox that consists of inoculating healthy subjects with a mild form of the disease to help the body produce antibodies. . And for good reason: "Since the masks filter certain droplets that contain viruses, they could reduce the inoculum that a person inhales," the researchers explain.

If this theory is confirmed, this low dose of virus could help the body produce antibodies and develop some immunity. It could also reduce the severity of the disease and therefore increase the number of asymptomatic patients.

The use of a mask could increase the number of asymptomatic patients.

To prove it, the authors of the study cite the case of an Argentine ship, which was the scene of a chain of contamination. The passengers wore surgical masks, while the ships personnel wore N95 masks, equivalent to the FFP2 masks.

Result: 81% of those infected were asymptomatic, compared to 20% in previous epidemics on cruise ships in which passengers did not wear masks.

While the researchers specify that more studies are needed to confirm their hypothesis, Dr. Emad Arafa, an immunology and allergy doctor in Dubai, who was not involved in the study, says that this theory is plausible. : "The viral load may not be enough to produce an infection with symptoms such as a cough or fever. However, it can still cause an immune reaction in which the body produces antibodies."

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