The first case of COVID-19 reinfection has been documented by scientists from Hong Kong who report that a 33 year old man has been infected by two different strains of the virus. The second infection occurred more than four months after recovery from the first episode of the disease. The finding raises questions as to the duration of human immunity to the virus and may have implications for COVID-19 vaccines if immunity to the virus is short-lived.
Dr Mainthan Palendira, Head of the Human Viral and Cancer Immunology Laboratory at the Centenary Institute comments, “We should be careful in interpreting too much out of a single case of reinfection, however, it is the first lab-confirmed case of reinfection that we know of.”
“This case is interesting because the person had a mild infection the first time and remained asymptomatic the second time. The virus that caused the infection the second time appears to be different from the original virus. Interestingly there were no detectable antibody responses after the first infection, however, a boosting of antibody response was seen after the second infection.”
“I would look at the positive side of the story. He was asymptomatic and there was a boosting of his antibody responses. This tells us that immunity can be enhanced by reinfection and that could potentially mitigate the severity of the disease when we get it the second time. This is good news for vaccine development and this is what we would expect vaccines to do.”
Information on Dr Palendira and his research can be found here.
Further Information on the Centenary Institute’s coronavirus activity can be found here.