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Dutch Woman Becomes First Person Reported to Die After COVID-19 Reinfection

Dutch physicians have recorded the first known death due to coronavirus reinfection. 

According to a report cited by CNN, an 89-year-old woman recently died after contracting COVID-19 for the second time. The patient was said to be immunocompromised as she was also receiving treatment for a rare type of blood cell cancer called Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia; however, experts said her immune system could’ve been strong enough to fight the coronavirus infection because her cancer treatment “does not necessarily result in life threatening disease.”

Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center said the elderly woman tested positive for the novel virus earlier this year after she began exhibiting symptoms like a fever and cough. She was reportedly hospitalized for nearly a week, and was eventually discharged once the symptoms had gone away.

About two months later, the woman began another round of chemotherapy treatment and once again started experiencing a cough, fever, and difficulty breathing. A subsequent test confirmed she had been infected with COVID-19 and no antibodies were found her blood in the following days. Researchers later found that the strains from her first and second infections differed, indicating “that the second episode was a reinfection rather than prolonged shedding.” The woman died two weeks later.

The case marks the first recorded death following a coronavirus reinfection; however, there have been a handful of confirmed reinfections across the world. On Tuesday, it was reported that a 25-year-old Nevada man was the first known American to have contracted the disease twice. Unlike the Dutch woman, the Nevada man had no known underlying health conditions, but his second infection was said to have been much worse than the first.

“It means that it is possible to get reinfected, that’s all it really tells us,” Dr. Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, told CNBC. “It doesn’t tell us that protective immunity is impossible. It is worth remembering that this might be just one of a very small handful of reinfections, it might be very rare, or it might be one of the very first few we are going to see a lot more of given time.”

The American patient has since recovered.

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COVID-19 again? Reinfection cases raise concerns over immunity

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (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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Covid-19 reinfection casts doubt on virus immunity: study

Covid-19 patients may experience more severe symptoms the second time they are infected, according to research released Tuesday confirming it is possible to catch the potentially deadly disease more than once.

A study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal charts the first confirmed case of Covid-19 reinfection in the United States — the country worst hit by the pandemic — and indicates that exposure to the virus may not guarantee future immunity.

The patient, a 25-year-old Nevada man, was infected with two distinct variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, within a 48-day time frame. 

The second infection was more severe than the first, resulting in the patient being hospitalised with oxygen support.

The paper noted four other cases of reinfection confirmed globally, with one patient each in Belgium, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Ecuador. 

Experts said the prospect of reinfection could have a profound impact on how the world battles through the pandemic.

In particular, it could influence the hunt for a vaccine — the currently Holy Grail of pharmaceutical research. 

“The possibility of reinfections could have significant implications for our understanding of Covid-19 immunity, especially in the absence of an effective vaccine,” said Mark Pandori, for the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory and lead study author. 

“We need more research to understand how long immunity may last for people exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and why some of these second infections, while rare, are presenting as more severe.”

– Waning immunity? –

Vaccines work by triggering the body’s natural immune response to a certain pathogen, arming it with antibodies it to fight off future waves of infection.

But it is not at all clear how long Covid-19 antibodies last. 

For some diseases, such as measles, infection confers lifelong immunity. For other pathogens, immunity may be fleeting at best. 

The authors said the US patient could have been exposed to a very high dose of the virus the second time around, triggering a more acute reaction. 

Alternatively, it may have been a more virulent strain of the virus. 

Another hypothesis is a mechanism known as antibody dependent enhancement — that is, when antibodies actually make subsequent infections worse, such as with dengue fever.

The researchers pointed out that reinfection of any kind remains rare, with only a handful of confirmed cases out of tens of millions of Covid-19 infections globally.

However, since many cases are asymptomatic and therefore unlikely to have tested positive initially, it may be impossible to know if a given Covid-19 case is the first or second infection.

In a linked comment to The Lancet paper, Akiko Iwasaka, a professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, said the findings could impact public health measures.

“As more cases of reinfection surface, the scientific community will have the opportunity to understand better the correlates of protection and how frequently natural infections with SARS-CoV-2 induce that level of immunity,” she said.

“This information is key to understanding which vaccines are capable of