The study published in the journal Science Immunology, was conducted by researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University and included 104 vaccinated participants to analyze antibody responses in relation to COVID-19, CNN reports.
A total of 31 vaccinated participants had breakthrough infections, 31 were infected prior to being vaccinated (considered to be a hybrid immunity) and 42 were never infected, according to the study.
The researchers found that the hybrid and breakthrough groups both experienced higher levels of antibodies combatting COVID-19 proteins than the group that was never infected.
Additionally, the antibodies were reported to be more efficient and potent and had higher rates of virus neutralization, which were as much as 32 times higher than the hybrid group and up to 17 times higher than the breakthrough group, which was similar to patterns previously seen with the Alpha, Beta and Delta COVID variants.
The antibody levels were reported to have declined with age among the uninfected group, as what was previously shown in other studies, however, not the case among the hybrid and breakthrough groups.
Neither group was observed to have experienced significant differences from the other.
“Overall, our results show that SARS-CoV-2 infection before or after vaccination gives a significantly larger boost to the neutralizing antibody response compared to two doses of vaccine alone. More importantly, the potency and breadth of the antibody response appears to improve concomitantly,” the authors stated via CNN.
The authors did, however, highlight the importance of getting the vaccine regardless of whether an individual had previously been infected.
“Because vaccination protects against severe disease and death, it is safer for individuals to be vaccinated before rather than after natural infection,” researchers stated via CNN.