Exposure to the coronavirus may not guarantee future immunity, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. Patients who have contracted coronavirus again are more likely to experience more severe symptoms than when they first have it, according to research published Tuesday that only confirms the fact that it is possible to contract the life-threatening illness more than once.
This study, which was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, has recorded the first confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection in the United States, which should be seen as a clear indication that exposure to the virus may not guarantee future immunity. The United States is one of the countries in the world most affected by the pandemic.
The patient, whose name is withheld to protect his privacy, is a 25-year-old man from Nevada who contracted two different variants of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) within 48 days. While the first infection was less severe, the second turned out to be much worse for the patient, who ended up in the hospital and on oxygen support. Four other cases of reinfection, according to the study, were confirmed worldwide with one patient from each of the following countries: Belgium, Hong Kong, Ecuador and the Netherlands.
The prospect of reinfection, experts say, could leave a significant impact on the way the world is fighting the pandemic. It could also influence, more particularly, the search for a vaccine, which is at the moment the main objective of pharmaceutical research. Mark Pandori of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory and lead author of the study made this clear when he said: “The possibility of reinfections could have significant implications for our understanding of Covid-19 immunity, especially in the absence of an effective vaccine.”
The main function of vaccines is that they trigger the body’s natural immune response to a certain pathogen and then arm it with antibodies to fight future waves of infection. But in the case of COVID-19, it is not entirely clear how long its antibodies can last. “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,” said Pandori.