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Can Salivary Glands Infected with COVID-19 Increase Risk for Relapse or Reinfection?

October 27, 2021
by University of Utah Health Sciences


University of Utah Health scientists are leading an effort to determine if salivary glands infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 could diminish a person’s long-term immunity to the disease after being immunized or after recovering from the illness.

The investigation, supported by a two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, will explore whether salivary glands that have SARS-CoV-2 can lessen the body’s ability to make antibodies that would protect it against reinfection by the virus.

Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 are commonly found in salivary glands. How SARS-CoV-2 gets there though is still a mystery. Typically, viruses can enter the salivary glands through the moist inner lining of the oral cavity, called mucosa, or travel there via the bloodstream, says Melodie Weller, Ph.D., an assistant professor of dentistry who is leading the new study.

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