SCIENTISTS have reported the world’s first case of person re-infected with COVID-19.
The new discovery will have implications for the development of vaccines and hopes of natural immunity against the virus.
Researchers at Hong Kong University’s department of microbiology said genetic sequencing of the virus showed a Hong Kong man was infected twice by different versions of the COVID-19 virus, four and a half months apart.
The patient was a man, aged 33, and in good health. When first infected he suffered a cough, sore throat, fever and headache for three days. He tested positive for COVID-19 and he was hospitalised on March 29.
Four and a half months later he was returning to Hong Kong from Spain via the UK when he tested positive during entry screening at Hong Kong airport on August 15. He was hospitalised again but had no symptoms throughout.
Experts warn against jumping to conclusions based on one single case, but acknowledged the discovery was a concern.
“Since the immunity can be short-lasting after natural infection, vaccination should also be considered for those with one episode of infection.
“Patients with previous COVID-19 infection should also comply with epidemiological control measures such as universal masking and social distancing.”
There have already been a number of reports of patients being re-infected with the virus but this was based on clinical features of the disease. In this case, scientists used genetic sequencing to analyse the separate strains of the virus.
Scientists claim immunity may be short-lasting.