Researchers confirm first case of COVID-19 reinfection

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A man was infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after recovering from an initial bout in April in what scientists said is the first case showing that re-infection may occur within a few months, according to new research by the Hong Kong University Department of Microbiology.

The 33-year-old’s second SARS-CoV-2 infection was detected via airport screening on his return to Hong Kong from Europe this month, according to a statement released by the university. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong used genomic sequence analysis to prove that he had been infected by two different strains. The information technology worker didn’t develop any symptoms from his second infection, which might indicate any “subsequent infections may be milder," the researchers said.

While some patients have tested positive for the virus over many weeks, even after their symptoms have resolved, scientists haven’t fully understood whether these cases reflect lingering traces of the virus, a re-eruption of an infection, or a new infection.

This is “the world’s first documentation” of COVID-19 reinfection, the researchers said in its statement. However, the researchers urge people to avoid jumping to conclusions. Studies tracking larger numbers of cases over time are needed to better understand the quality and durability of recovered patients’ neutralizing antibody response to SARS-CoV-2.

The paper has not been published yet but has been paper accepted for publication in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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