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UPDATE 1-COVID-19 again? Reinfection cases raise concerns over immunity

Tue, 13th Oct 2020 15:31

* U.S. case of double infection analysed in medical journal

* Raises questions over immunity and potential COVID vaccine

* Elderly Dutch woman dies after being reinfected too
(Adds fatal case of Dutch patient, paras five and six)

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The case of a man in the United
States infected twice with COVID-19 shows there is much yet to
learn about immune responses and also raises questions over
vaccination, scientists said on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old from Reno, Nevada, tested positive in April
after showing mild symptoms, then got sick again in late May
with a more serious bout, according to a case report in the
Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal.

The report was published just hours after U.S. President
Donald Trump, who was infected with COVID-19 and hospitalised
earlier this month, said he believes he now has immunity and
felt "so powerful".

Scientists said that while known incidences of reinfection
appear rare - and the Nevada man has now recovered - cases like
his were worrying. Other isolated cases of reinfection have been
reported around the world, including in Asia and Europe.

In the Netherlands, the National Institute for Public Health
confirmed on Tuesday that an 89-year-old Dutch woman, also sick
with a rare form of bone marrow cancer, had recently died after
contracting COVID-19 for a second time.

Dutch media said this was the first known case worldwide of
a death after SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus reinfection.

'IMPLICATIONS FOR VACCINATION'

"It is becoming increasingly clear that reinfections are
possible, but we can't yet know how common this will be," said
Simon Clarke, a microbiology expert at Britain's Reading
University.

"If people can be reinfected easily, it could also have
implications for vaccination programmes as well as our
understanding of when and how the pandemic will end."

The Nevada patient's doctors, who first reported the case in
a non peer-reviewed paper in August, said
sophisticated testing showed that the virus strains associated
with each bout of infection were genetically different.

"These findings reinforce the point that we still do not
know enough about the immune response to this infection," said
Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at Britain's University of
East Anglia.

Brendan Wren, a professor of vaccinology at the London
School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the Nevada case was
the fifth confirmed example of reinfection worldwide.

"The demonstration that it is possible to be reinfected by
SARS-CoV-2 may suggest that a COVID-19 vaccine may not be
totally protective," he said. "However, given the (more than) 40
million cases worldwide, these small examples of reinfection are
tiny and should not deter efforts to develop vaccines."

World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic
concurred that the U.S. case underlined what was unknown about
immunity. "And this also really is an argument against what some
have been advocating, and that's building naturally what is
called herd immunity. Because we don't know," he told a
briefing.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland;
Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam, Stephanie
Nebehay in Geneva;
Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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