Two patients from Europe and one from Hong Kong were recently found to be re-infected with Coronavirus, months after they recovered from the first instance of infection. The patients from Hong Kong and Belgium caught a different strain of the virus a few months after they were declared recovered from the first infection. The patient from Netherlands was an older person with a weak immune system. Although these incidents have raised concerns regarding people’s immunity to the virus, scientists find these cases significant in developing a safe and effective vaccine for Coronavirus.
Reuters: Reinfected Coronavirus Cases Raises Immunity Concerns
Reuters reports that the cases in Belgium and the Netherlands, follow a report this week by researchers in Hong Kong about a man there who had contracted a different strain of the virus four and a half months after being declared recovered – the first such second infection to be documented.
That has raised fears about the efficacy of potential vaccines against the virus, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, though experts say there would need to be many more cases of re-infection for these to be justified.
Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said the Belgian case was a woman who had contracted COVID-19 for the first time in March and then again with a different coronavirus strain in June.
“Viruses mutate and that means that a potential vaccine is not going to be a vaccine that will last forever, for 10 years, probably not even five years. Just as for flu, this will have to be redesigned quite regularly,” he said.
BGR.Com: Coronavirus reinfection is possible but also important to the deveopment of vaccines
Chris Smith of BGR.Com says that there were plenty of reports about COVID-19 survivors who tested positive a few weeks after the initial infection. The Korean CDC concluded those were not actual reinfections, and those people were not contagious. Instead, traces of the virus was still detectable in samples. The Hong Kong man was different, showing signs of acute infection as well as a new antibody response. The second COVID-19 bout proved to be even milder than the first one, as the man was asymptomatic. However, the researchers warned that there’s no guarantee that subsequent reinfections can’t be more severe.
Officials from Belgium and the Netherlands have confirmed they too identified patients experiencing a second case of COVID-19.
COVID-19 reinfections might become a thing not because of the upcoming cold season but because enough time will have passed from the first exposure to the virus for many people, and they could catch it again in regions where the outbreaks are still out of control.
Smith believes that these reinfection cases are also important for the development of therapeutics and vaccines going forward. Researchers will have to find ways of dealing with short-lived immunity and come up with therapies that can treat the infection more effectively than the protocols available right now. Also, experts will have to figure out whether the initial infection reduces the risk of complications in subsequent infections. That would be the kind of scenario to look forward to.