A 25-year-old man is the first person in the United States to be infected with the coronavirus for the second time – which hit him harder than his first attack of the disease.
The unidentified patient first tested positive in April after showing mild symptoms of sore throat, cough, headache, nausea, and diarrhea. After he recovered and received two negative tests, similar warning signs appeared in May.
He tested positive – 48 days after the first negative test – and suffered a more severe infection. He was hospitalized, needed oxygen, and endured a cough, muscle pain, and shortness of breath. An x-ray also suggested viral pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Genetic sequencing shows the patient from Washoe County, Nevada, was infected with two different strains of coronavirus. It is the fifth known case of a new Covid-19 infection worldwide.
The truth about Covid-19 immunity remains a mystery, as the pathogen known as SARS-CoV-2 has only been known to science for less than a year. However, scientists are convinced that the second time the disease will be milder, since the body has already built a natural immunity to it.
The latest case, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, challenges this theory and raises questions for future vaccination programs as well as for those countries that are advancing herd immunity strategies.
Experts described the case as "very worrying". It comes after US President Donald Trump controversially claimed he was immune to the virus and had a "protective glow" meaning he "can't get it and can't give it".
He tested positive for coronavirus on April 18 after developing mild symptoms and tested negative twice in May. However, on May 28, he developed more severe symptoms and tested positive again on June 5 (above).
The Nevada man is the fifth person in the world to be re-infected. Other cases have been reported in Hong Kong, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ecuador. Pictured: genetic testing of the Nevada patient's two virus strains
The American was not named and had no underlying health conditions.
While this doesn't prove that contracting the virus doesn't lead to herd immunity, the scientists said everyone should be aware of protective measures like wearing a face mask, social distancing, and hand washing.
Dr. Mark Pandori of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, who led the study, told DailyMail.com that the patient may have received a "very high dose" of the virus to re-infect. This "overwhelmed" the immune system, he said, leading to a more serious infection.
Re-infections can occur in the US, he warned, but most are likely to be asymptomatic and therefore go undetected.
"If (that) happens, we would have no way of knowing," he said. “People wouldn't feel inclined to be tested again. It is also difficult to confirm a case of re-infection. Some labs barely stick to tests, let alone tests. & # 39;
He said the case "strongly suggests" that individuals should continue to take serious precautions against the virus, including wearing a face mask, social distancing and hand washing.
Genetic testing showed that the strains of the virus from each fight were different (above), suggesting true reinfection
CAN YOU CATCH COVID-19 TWICE?
At the beginning of the pandemic, scientists were baffled whether or not they could catch Covid-19 twice. Now the evidence is more convincing after a number of reports of new infections around the world.
With some diseases, like chicken pox, the immune system can remember exactly how to destroy it and can fight it off if it ever tries to enter the body again.
Tests have shown that many people who recover from Covid-19 have antibodies – which can provoke future immunity – but it's not known if there are enough of them.
However, antibodies are just one type of substance that can induce immunity. The immune system is a huge network of proteins that have various functions to protect the body from infection.
Others, including white blood cells called T and B cells, can also help the body fight off disease, but are more difficult to detect with currently available tests.
There are initial indications that antibodies disappear as early as eight weeks after being infected with the coronavirus, scientifically called SARS-Cov-2.
On the other hand, T cells that target and destroy cells already infected with the virus are "permanent".
A promising study in monkeys found that they failed to catch Covid-19 a second time after recovering from it, leading scientists to believe that the same could apply to humans.
The rhesus monkeys were purposely reinfected by scientists in China to test how their bodies reacted.
With the coronavirus only known to scientists for nine months, there wasn't enough time to investigate whether people develop long-term immunity.
After the patient tested positive for the virus on April 18 in the Washoe County Health District, he was isolated for treatment. Doctors waited for symptoms to subside and performed two negative tests before giving him the all-clear to return to the community.
But on May 28, he suffered the same warning signs, including dizziness.
He was brought in for urgent treatment but discharged after a chest x-ray showed no results.
After symptoms persisted for five days, he went to a family doctor who diagnosed hypoxia, which occurs when the tissues do not have enough oxygen to keep the body functioning.
The patient was taken to an emergency room and swabbed – where he tested positive for Covid-19.
He had a more severe attack of the illness from which he has recovered.
Of the other four confirmed re-infections, only one in Ecuador showed a more severe attack of the disease the second time.
Dr. Pandori added: “I think (the study) shows that we are all in the same public health boat, whether or not you tested positive.
“Be aware that you may be re-infected as we cannot prove invulnerability.
"Wearing masks and social distancing apply to those who have had the virus as well as those who have not."
Professor Brendan Wren of vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told The Times the case suggests that a Covid-19 vaccine may be "not fully protective".
"However, given the 40 million cases worldwide, these small examples of new infections are tiny and shouldn't put off vaccine development efforts," he said.
Dr. Simon Clarke, an expert in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, added it was too early to say how common re-infection could be.
"The consequences of widespread reinfection are herd immunity not working," he said.
"This provides further scientific evidence of the utmost caution in proposing guidelines that allow Covid-19 to penetrate the younger population while trying to protect the elderly and vulnerable, even if it could, which is likely not is. "
Scientists still aren't sure about the truth about immunity, as Covid-19 has only been around since January – meaning its long-term effects are still unclear.
So far, cases of people being infected more than once have been neither numerous nor convincing.
In August, two European Covid-19 survivors were reportedly re-infected after recovering from the disease. A Dutch patient who was old and had a weakened immune system and a Belgian woman who had only mild symptoms tested positive twice, local broadcasters claim.
What followed was a landmark report from a Hong Kong man who was re-infected four and a half months after his initial crackdown. The genetic analysis revealed that the 33-year-old's second attack of illness, which he got while traveling to Europe, was caused by another strain of the virus.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia, said, "I think most of us thought that re-infection with Covid-19 is likely to become common as people's immunity decreases after being infected.
& # 39; The results … however, are very worrying both in terms of the very short time between the two infections and the fact that the second disease was more severe than the first.
Until this and another recently published report from Ecuador, I assumed that a second infection would be likely after a few months and then most likely less severe, at least in otherwise immunocompetent people.
"Aside from these cases in the US and Ecuador, other reports of new infections have been asymptomatic."
What are the cases where people get infected with coronavirus again?
Ecuador: man, 46
First infection: mild. Second infection: serious
A 46-year-old man suffered a more severe infection the second time he caught the virus. After first discovering the virus in May and later tested negative, it was wiped again in August after showing mild symptoms and was found to be infected again. He suffered from worse symptoms such as fever, headache and sore throat, but did not need to be hospitalized. When he first got infected, he had a headache, sore throat, and tiredness. Genetic sequencing showed that he was infected with two different strains of the virus.
Dutch: woman, 86
First infection: mild. Second infection: serious
An 86-year-old woman died after being infected again with coronavirus. She recovered from the first case, but developed a fever, cough, and shortness of breath two months later. Covid-19 was diagnosed again. The infection came after she started chemotherapy for an underlying health condition. Genetic studies showed that she was infected with two different strains of the virus.
Belgium: woman, 50s
First infection: mild. Second infection: mild
A woman in her fifties suffered a second infection in June after first contracting the virus in March. Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst did not publish the details of the case, but claimed the woman developed very few antibodies after her first infection, suggesting that it made her more vulnerable.
Hong Kong: Man, 33
First infection: mild. Second infection: mild
A 33-year-old man who was infected with the virus in March suffered a second infection in August. After returning from a trip to Spain via the UK, he was retested and found positive for Covid-19. He didn't have symptoms with the second infection, which scientists said might show re-infections are generally milder.
Source: International SOS
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