A patient in the Netherlands has been reinfected with coronavirus. Reinfections have also been confirmed in Belgium and Hong Kong.
The person who has been infected with coronavirus twice in the Netherlands is an elderly patient with a deteriorated immune system, NOS reports. Virologists have expected for a while that some coronavirus patients would be able to get the virus a second time.
If a person gets a mild form of the virus, that means they will have fewer antibodies. Furthermore, those antibodies decrease over time. There are large differences in the amount of antibodies coronavirus patients have after the infection passes – that much has been clear from blood tests. The reinfected patient in Belgium only had mild complaints the first time they were infected with coronavirus, so is expected to have only produced a small amount of antibodies.
Secondly, says Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, adviser to the World Health Organization and the Dutch cabinet, “SARS-CoV-2 infections all have a different fingerprint, a genetic code.” In order to confirm a reinfection, researchers have to show that the second infection has a different RNA code from the first infection. That has been done in these three confirmed reinfections.
The reinfection itself is not a huge cause for concern, says Koopmans. “I don’t get nervous that someone slips in between with a reinfection.” The question the confirmed reinfection raises, though, is how long people have immune protection from coronavirus after being infected once. The focus now will be on seeing if reinfections occur more regularly.
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