More COVID-19 reinfections reported, including a fatal case

Oct. 14, 2020

The recent COVID-19 reinfection case in the United States is the first peer-reviewed report on repeat illness in an American, a 25-year-old Nevada man whose second COVID-19 infection was first reported in the media in late August, according to a report from University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which publishes CIDRAP News. 

Writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers from Nevada said the Washoe County man who had no underlying health conditions tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 twice, once on April 18 and again on June 25, separated by two negative tests. The man's second infection was more severe requiring hospitalization and oxygen support. Genetic analysis of the viruses involved in each infection showed significant differences. 

The team noted that some of the few other documented reinfection patients from other parts of the world had more severe disease the second time, which could stem from a variety of reasons, including a very high infectious dose for the second infection, a more virulent virus, or antibody-dependent enhancement. Continuous or coinfections are remote possibilities, they added. 

They concluded that their findings have implications for vaccination, given that initial exposure to the virus might not result in immunity that is 100 percent protective and that more research is needed to determine how often reinfections occur. 

In a related commentary in the same issue, Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, an immune-biologist with the Yale University School of Medicine, wrote that new report adds rapidly growing evidence of reinfection and also raises questions about immunity. She also said it's important to note that the cases are being picked up because of symptoms and are biased toward detecting symptomatic reinfections, which could underestimate asymptomatic ones. 

In a related development, researchers from the Netherlands recently reported the first known death in a patient reinfected SARS-CoV-2, an 89-year-old woman who was undergoing chemotherapy and whose COVID-19 infections occurred 59 days apart. They detailed the case in a letter published on October 9 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. She was hospitalized for five days for her first infection, but other than some persistent fatigue, her symptoms subsided. 

Symptoms of her second infection occurred two days into a new chemotherapy treatment. Researchers noted that she didn't have antibodies 6 days after the start of her second infection, and she died two weeks after she got sick with the second infection. 

reinfection tracker from BNO Newsroom shows that 23 reinfection cases have been reported across the globe, one of them fatal. 

Also today, Eli Lilly paused a trial of its monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 due to possible safety concerns, CNBC reported. A company spokeswoman told the network that an independent data safety monitoring board recommended the pause to ensure the safety of participants. The company recently announced that it submitted an emergency use authorization request for its LY-COV555 monoclonal antibody for treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19 infection.

CIDRAP has the report

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