The Hague/Brussels, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- Researchers in the Netherlands and Belgium on Tuesday confirmed that two individuals who had previously been diagnosed with and recovered from Covid-19 have been reinfected with coronavirus.
The news comes one day after the world’s first confirmed case of reinfection of a patient in Hong Kong.
In the Netherlands, Marion Koopmans, a virologist and advisor to the World Health Organisation and the Dutch government, said that an elderly man with a weakened immune system had contracted the virus for the second time since the start of the pandemic in March.
Koopmans was unfazed by the news, saying that experts had expected some patients to be reinfected, as is common with respiratory diseases, but that until now there had been no evidence for it.
“Respiratory infections can strike twice, or more often. We know that you are not protected for life if you have had the infection and that is what we expect with Covid,” Koopmans said.
The Dutch virologist explained that every SARS-CoV-2 infection has a distinct genetic fingerprint that allows researchers to identify whether a patient has had two separate infections or if one remained dormant or only had mild symptoms.
In neighbouring Belgium, meanwhile, Koopman’s counterpart, Marc Van Rants, confirmed that a Belgian woman who had recovered from coronavirus had fallen ill three months after first being infected.
After samples were analyzed, researchers confirmed that the second infection was a different strain of the virus, Van Rants told Belgian television station VTM.
“It’s not good news,” he said. “You hope that you are out of harm’s way. Hopefully that is the case in most cases.”
The developments in Belgium and the Netherlands come a day after a 33-year-old man from Hong Kong became the first documented case of Covid-19 reinfection in the world .
The patient was discharged after being cured of the virus in April but earlier this month tested positive again after returning from Spain, state broadcaster RTHK said.
According to the city’s health authorities, it was initially thought that man could be a “persistent carrier” of SARS-CoV-2 since he was first infected, but researchers found that the genetic sequences of the virus strains that the man contracted in April and August were clearly different.
The discoveries represent a setback for those formulating their pandemic strategy on the supposed immunity gained after overcoming the disease.
“Many believe that recovered Covid-19 patients have immunity against reinfection because most developed a serum neutralizing antibody response,” said the study by the Hong Kong university.
However, the researchers underlined that “there is evidence that some patients have waning antibody level after a few months.”
The study has been accepted by the medical journal ‘Clinical Infectious Diseases’, published by the Oxford University in England. EFE-EPA