A Nevada man became the first published case of COVID-19 reinfection in the U.S., adding to a growing number of examples worldwide signaling that patients who have recovered from the viral disease may still be at risk of getting it again.
In a paper in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, a group of authors including University of Nevada researchers recount the case of a 25-year-old who suffered two bouts of COVID-19 infection, one confirmed through testing in mid-April and the second in early June. Symptoms of the second case started in late May, a month after the patient reported his initial symptoms as having resolved.
The two strains of virus were genetically distinct, signaling that it is unlikely that the man simply remained unknowingly infected with the virus in one, longer bout, the authors wrote. The paper notes that the patient’s second case of COVID-19 was more severe than his first, requiring supplemental oxygen and admission to a hospital after he suffered from shortness of breath.
The Nevada case comes after similar reinfection case reports from locations including Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ecuador. The growing number of examples in medical literature bolsters evidence that immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, might in at least some cases only last for a limited period, similar to coronaviruses that cause the common cold, researchers said.
The emerging reinfection reports don’t necessarily signal problems for efforts to create an effective vaccine, said Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University, who wrote a commentary about the new paper. “Just because the natural infection doesn’t give protection doesn’t mean the vaccines cannot,” she said. “It’s a separate issue.”
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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