Health
First case of Covid-19 reinfection documented by Hong Kong researchers

By - World Healthcare Journal

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) on Monday stated that a Hong Kong man was infected with Covid-19 for a second time – the world’s first such documented case.

The 33-year-old IT worker was cleared of Covid-19 and discharged from a hospital in April this year, following a bout of textbook coronavirus. However, upon returning to Hong Kong in August, he once again tested positive, despite suffering no symptoms.

Health officials at first were unsure if the man was a "persistent carrier" of the virus from his previous infection, despite the negative tests following his initial release. Nevertheless, the research team then confirmed through genetic sequencing that the virus strains contracted were “clearly different”.

These findings could have significant implications for the development of vaccines and what is currently understood regarding natural immunity against Covid-19.

“An apparently young and healthy patient had a second episode of Covid-19 infection which was diagnosed 4.5 months after the first episode,” the researchers say.

“This case shows that patients recovered from Covid-19 can get reinfected,” says Dr Kelvin Kai-Wang To, clinical associate professor at the HKU Department of Microbiology.

“Therefore, immunity against Covid-19 is not lifelong. ”

“Reinfection is likely occurring elsewhere. Our case was asymptomatic and was diagnosed because of screening at the airport. ”

Since the immunity for a single bout of coronavirus is likely not enough to provide full protection, researchers added that those who have had coronavirus should still be vaccinated once immunisation is available. This finding may also mean that multiple doses of the Covid-19 vaccine could be necessary during vaccination programmes.

Despite this worrying finding, some experts believe that this isolated case may not have implications on a global scale.

“With over three million cases of Covid-19 worldwide, the first reported case of a potential reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 needs to be taken into context,” says Professor Brendan Wren, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“It appears that the young and healthy adult has been reinfected with a slight SARS-CoV-2 variant from the initial infection three months previously.

“It is to be expected that the virus will naturally mutate over time. This is a very rare example of reinfection and it should not negate the global drive to develop Covid-19 vaccines. ”

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, also urged caution regarding the findings, arguing it was hard to draw conclusions until the full study has been published.

“This is certainly stronger evidence of reinfection than some of the previous reports because it uses the genome sequence of the virus to separate the two infections. It seems much more likely that this patient has two distinct infections than a single infection followed by a relapse.


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