Coronavirus: Reinfection around the world spark fears of NEW virus strain

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’S COVID-19 technical lead, on Wednesday said reinfection of the novel coronavirus is "possible." Kerkhove is pictured here at a July 3 news conference. (Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS)

Worrying reinfection cases spark fears of NEW virus strain

CORONAVIRUS reinfections are sparking concerns that a new strain of the deadly pathogen could be circulating.

The alarm was raised when a Belgian woman who had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 was confirmed as reinfected. The reinfection came three months after the woman first contracted the disease.

In Hong Kong scientists reported they have found a man who was reinfected by the coronavirus that causes covid-19, supported by concrete genetic evidence. This would be the first documented case of someone being infected twice, but it’s still unclear if this patient is an outlier or if vulnerability to reinfection is common.

Nevada man, 25, becomes the first known case in the US of coronavirus reinfection

Researchers for the first time have identified someone in the United States who was reinfected with the novel coronavirus, according to a study that has not yet been reviewed by outside experts.

The report, published online, describes a 25-year-old man living in Reno, Nevada, who tested positive for the virus in April after showing mild illness. He got sick again in late May and developed more severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“This study likely represents a clear example of reinfection … reinfections are possible – which we already knew, because immunity is never 100%,” Kristian Anderson, professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, said in an emailed comment.

Cases of presumed reinfection have cropped up in other parts of the world, but questions have arisen about testing accuracy. Earlier this week, University of Hong Kong researchers reported details of a 33-year-old man who had recovered in April from a severe case of COVID-19 and was diagnosed four months later with a different strain of the virus.

Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory said they were able to show through sophisticated testing that the virus associated with each instance of the Reno man’s infection represented genetically different strains.

They emphasized that reinfection with the virus is probably rare, but said the findings imply that initial exposure to the virus may not result in full immunity for everyone.

“We don’t know at what frequency reinfections occur and how that might change over time,” Anderson said. “Before we have broader studies illuminating these questions, we can’t conclude what a single case of reinfection means for longevity and robustness of COVID-19 immunity and relevance for a future vaccine.”  

Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool

The UK has announced plans for quickly immunising large numbers of people if a coronavirus vaccine is developed before winter. They involve allowing a wider range of healthcare staff to give shots, such as midwives, physiotherapists and dentists, as well as pharmacists, who already administer flu vaccines. It also grants powers to approve any vaccine that is proven safe and effective before the end of the year to the Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Agency. This body will become responsible for approving all drugs and vaccines from the start of 2021 once the UK’s Brexit transition period is over.

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