A crucial question that science seeks to answer is whether coronavirus sufferers can re-become infected.
The topic aroused interest yesterday in Chile, after it was announced on Monday that the senator for National Renewal (RN), Manuel José Ossandón, was diagnosed for the second time with COVID-19, after testing positive in May.
On the 29th of that month, the parliamentarian was discharged, after completing 14 days of quarantine after living the condition asymptomatically. But this Sunday she got a new positive PCR result.
“This time around, the symptoms are much more complex. I am very concerned,” Ossandon said in a statement Monday.
COVID-19 reinfection is not an established phenomenon, doctors agree.
“Until now, there are no reports of reinfection confirmed by this virus,” says Luis Herrada, head of the emergency service at Clinica Las Condes.
“In other coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-1 and MERS, it was shown that there was reinfection, but this has not been shown to be the same,” says Vivian Luchsinger, academic in the virology program at the University of Chile.
“What has been published are the cases of patients who have persistently positive CRP, despite being without symptoms,” clarifies the specialist.
Regarding the case of Senator Ossandón, Herrada explains: “In these tables, where the CRP continues to be positive, it may be because at first there was a very mild illness, and then complex symptoms begin to appear.”
According to a statement issued yesterday by the Santa María Clinic, where the parliamentarian is treated, he gave a negative result in the virus antibody study, which suggests two elements, according to experts: “Or that he never had the disease and his first PCR was a false positive, or if it was, and it mounted an immune response so mild that it could not be detected in the antibody test. But we must continue to see if there are more cases like this, “says Dr. Herrada.
And it is that the subject of a possible reinfection by the new coronavirus is not clear.
“What is known today is that there are those who manage to raise a type of immune response that they lose as time passes, and that there is another group that fails to raise immunity, which invites us to think that the possibility of reinfection could exist” , explains Herrada.
Concerns about eventual reinfections began to emerge last April, when South Korea reported 260 people tested positive weeks after overcoming the illness.
However, a subsequent report by the Central Committee for the Control of Emerging Diseases in that country concluded that these were false positives.
On the other hand, the studies carried out so far are not conclusive. A paper published in the journal Nature in April indicates that immunity acquired at first infection “appears to protect against reinfections.”
Along the same lines, another study published in SN Comprenhensive Clinical Medicine found that reinfection by coronavirus “seems unlikely”.
But more recent research that appeared in mid-June, also in Nature, indicates that the antibodies would last only two to three months, opening up the possibility of reinfection.
Given this, the call of the doctors is to prevention. “We all have to take care of ourselves, but even if someone had COVID-19, they have to continue washing their hands, wearing a mask and distancing themselves,” says Javier Tinoco, an infectologist at the Universidad de los Andes Clinic.
Hugues Louissaint is an entrepreneur and writer, living in the US for over a decade. He has launched successful products such the Marabou Coffee brand, which has been highly successful in Florida. He has also been a writer for more than 5 years focusing on science, technology, and health. He writes part-time for the Scientific Origin and provides valuable input on a wide range of subjects.