Several recent studies conducted around the world indicate that the human body does not retain the antibodies that build up during infections, meaning there may be no lasting immunity to COVID-19 after people recover.

Strong antibodies are also crucial in the development of vaccines. So molecular biologists fear the only way left to control the disease may be to treat the symptoms after people are infected to prevent the most debilitating effects, including inflammation, blood clots and death.

“I just don’t see a vaccine coming anytime soon,” said Nevan Krogan, a molecular biologist and director of UCSF’s Quantitative Biosciences Institute, which works in partnership with 100 research laboratories. “People do have antibodies, but the antibodies are waning quickly.” And if antibodies diminish, “then there is a good chance the immunity from a vaccine would wane too.”

The latest bad news came from scientists at King’s College of London, whose study of 90 COVID-19 patients in the United Kingdom found antibody levels peaked three weeks after the onset of symptoms and then dramatically declined.