As the world still awaits the invention of an effective vaccine for the COVID-19, new discoveries concerning the deadly virus are coming to light. Hong Kong officials have reported the case of a healthy 30-year-old man who got reinfected with coronavirus four and a half months after his first bout. Thus, now proving that there is a real, though slim, chance of getting reinfected with this lethal virus.
The Hong Kong report
The University of Hong Kong is publishing a report in Clinical Infectious Diseases, stating that said man spent 14 days in the hospital before recovering from the virus way back hospital in April. He also didn’t show any signs or symptoms when he tested positive for the virus after returning from Spain via Britain on Aug 15.
According to the report, the man appeared to be relatively healthy. Moreover, he seems to have contracted a different coronavirus strain from the one he had previously. Hence, unlike his first experience, the patient remained asymptomatic for the second infection.
The World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist, Maria Van Kerkhove, stated on Monday that there was “no need to jump to any conclusions in response to the Hong Kong case”.
Cases regarding individuals discharged from hospitals and testing positive again for COVID-19 infection have been reported before in mainland China. However, in those cases, there is simply not enough data to determine whether the patients re-contacted the virus as the Hongkong patient, still had the virus in their body from the initial infection.
Furthermore, Jeffrey Barrett, an expert and consultant with the COVID-19 Genome Project at Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute, assured that “Given the number of global infections to date, seeing one case of re-infection is not that surprising even if it is a very rare occurrence”.
Impact on the vaccine
Though the world had little to no evidence of the virus’s reinfection, virologists already believed that reinfection with coronaviruses is very possible. Thus, immunologists are working hard to determine how long the hallmarks of protective immunity will last in recovered patients. Human bodies don’t turn impervious to viruses after recovery, instead they become a form of inhospitable hosts.
Furthermore, Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stated that “This is a very rare example of reinfection”. Therefore, “And it should not negate the global drive to develop Covid-19 vaccines.”
Moreover, Dr. Jeffrey Barrett, senior scientific consultant for the Covid-19 genome project at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “Given the number of global infections to date, seeing one case of reinfection is not that surprising even if it is a very rare occurrence.
“It may be that second infections, when they do occur, are not serious – though we don’t know whether this person was infectious during their second episode.”
Additionally, Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, stated that it is vital to have more data regarding the reinfection cases “before we can really understand the implications”.
In brief, the reinfection doesn’t seem to directly pose any form of an increased threat to the patients or the vaccines. The lack of data is keeping everyone in the dark. However, scientists are working hard to better understand the case.
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