Two patients in Europe have reportedly been confirmed as having been reinfected with the coronavirus, with scientists admitting it is “not good news”.
A patient in the Netherlands said to have caught the virus for a second time is an older person with a weakened immune system, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.
The other person – in Belgium – was said to have experienced mild symptoms after catching the virus again in June, having reportedly first been infected in the second week of March.
Both reports will raise concerns about people’s immunity to the disease and come days after a study by researchers revealed a man in Hong Kong had caught the coronavirus for a second time, some four-and-a-half months after recovering from their first infection.
Scientists said reinfections had been “expected”, but that it was still “not good news”.
Virologist Marion Koopmans, an adviser to the Dutch government, said that cases where people have been sick with COVID-19 for a long time before it then flares up again were more known.
She added: “That someone would pop up with a reinfection, it doesn’t make me nervous. We have to see whether it happens often.”
Discovering a true reinfection, as in the Dutch, Belgian and Hong Kong cases, requires genetic testing of the virus in both the first and second cases to see whether the two instances differ slightly.
Marc Van Ranst, also a virologist, told Belgian broadcaster VRT: “I think that in the coming days that we will see other similar stories. These could be exceptions, but do exist. It’s not good news.”
He said the Belgian case shows antibodies the patient had developed during the first exposure were not enough to prevent a second case with a slightly different variant of the virus.
He added many more people could experience a reinfection “after six or seven months”.
It comes amid growing fears there could be a second wave of the coronavirus in some countries, as the race for a vaccine and more treatments continues.