Researchers in Hong Kong have identified the first reported case of coronavirus reinfection, numerous sources reported.
Researchers at the University of Hong Kong said a patient was infected with coronavirus a second time four-and-a-half months after the initial infection, Reuters reported.
The patient was found to have contracted a different strain of the virus from the one he had initially contracted, and was asymptomatic for the second infection.
“This case illustrates that reinfection can occur just after a few months of recovery from the first infection,” the researchers said in a press release according to The Hill. “Our findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may persist in the global human population as is the case for other common-cold associated human coronaviruses, even if patients have acquired immunity via natural infection.”
The patient, a 33-year-old male who appeared previously healthy, was cleared of COVID-19 and discharged from a hospital in April, but tested positive the second time after returning from Spain via Britain in mid-August, Reuters reported. (RELATED: ‘Return To Normal’: Trump Releases His Second Term Agenda)
Experts say there’s no need to panic about the discovery.
“This is interesting but not alarming,” said Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, according to the Hill.
A first case of #COVID19 reinfection from HKU, with distinct virus genome sequences in 1st and 2nd infection (142 days apart). Kudos to the scientists for this study.
This is no cause for alarm – this is a textbook example of how immunity should work.
— Prof. Akiko Iwasaki (@VirusesImmunity) August 24, 2020
“First, this appears to be rare,” he added. “Though we don’t go looking often enough so unclear. Second, person was asymptomatic during the re-infection. This is exactly what one would want to see with immunity — that you can pick up virus again but that it won’t cause serious illness.”
Other instances of people discharged from hospitals and testing positive again for COVID-19 have been reported in mainland China, but it wasn’t clear whether the patients had been reinfected after full recovery or still had the virus in their body from the initial infection.
The finding is included in a paper in international medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and does not mean vaccines will be useless, one of the paper’s authors told Reuters.
“The finding does not mean taking vaccines will be useless,” Dr. Kai-Wang told Reuters.
“Immunity induced by vaccination can be different from those induced by natural infection,” To said. “[We] will need to wait for the results of the vaccine trials to see if how effective vaccines are.”
The finding also touches on a commonly discussed question as researchers are learning more about coronavirus — namely, how long immunity lasts.
“What is not completely clear yet is how strong that immune response is and for how long that immune response lasts,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, an expert at the World Health Organization (WHO), said Monday according to The Hill.