Coronavirus update: More cases of COVID-19 reinfection likely to emerge, warn experts

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New Delhi | August 27, 2020 12:43 PM

Coronavirus COVID-19 update: Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said that it is important to ascertain how long immunity lasts in Coronavirus cases.

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Coronavirus COVID-19 update: More cases of coronavirus reinfection are likely to emerge, experts have warned. So far, cases of COVID-19 reinfection have been detected in Hong Kong, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In India, two medical professionals have been found to be reinfected with coronavirus in Telangana and one woman has reportedly been tested reinfected at a private hospital in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. These cases of coronavirus re-infections have raised concerns about immunity. Experts have claimed that antibody levels are waning faster than expected resulting in the emergence of more COVID-19 reinfection cases.

However, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said that it is important to ascertain how long immunity lasts in coronavirus cases. Regarding the Hong Kong case, the World Health Organization (WHO) official Margaret Harris said while there were anecdotal reports of re-infections, it was important to have clear documentation, as per a Reuters report.

Meanwhile, experts have advised patients, who have recovered from Coronavirus, to strictly follow anti-epidemic measures. COVID-19 recovered patients gain immunity and this generally lasts for six to 12 months. However, there are possibilities that the level of antibodies could wane faster than expected owing to various reasons, Biomedical professor at the University of Hong Kong Jin Dongyan was quoted as saying by Global Times.

A weak immune system is also a possible cause for Coronavirus reinfection. Notably, any individual’s weak immune system has nothing to do with the level of antibodies in his or her body. This means if a COVID recovered patient falls ill and possesses weaker immunity levels than usual, he or she could get infected again by the Coronavirus, as per the Global Times report.

According to a Reuters report, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said the Belgian case was of a woman who had contracted COVID-19 for the first time in March and then again with a different coronavirus strain in June. Further cases of re-infection were likely to surface, he said. Ranst added that the new coronavirus appeared more stable than the influenza virus, but it was changing. 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 was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The National Institute for Public Health in the Netherlands said it had also observed a Dutch case of re-infection with a different strain of the virus. It is clear there has been a first and a second infection with a substantial quantity of virus. Enough to be able to determine the genetic code of the virus, that is what showed they were indeed different, Marion Koopmans, a leading virologist in the Netherlands and a member of the World Health Organization’s scientific advisory group, said. Some experts say it is likely that such cases are starting to emerge because of greater testing worldwide, rather than because the virus may be spreading differently, the Reuters report noted.

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