Catching COVID-19 a second time is within the realm of possibilities as two patients were positively diagnosed with a new strain of SARS -Cov-2 a few months after their first infection.
On July 4, 2020, a case report published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine asked a fundamental question in the title of its article: “Is re-infection with the new coronavirus possible in 2019? “This paper discusses an 82-year-old patient who suffered from COVID-19 in April 2020. Cured in May 2020, he was discharged from the hospital without symptoms and with negative confirmation of PCR. A few weeks later, the symptoms reappeared. A new PCR test showed that the patient was positive again.
Not so fast. Considering this result, several hypotheses are open to scientists. Is it a new infection or a relapse of the virus? The virus can remain “dormant” in certain parts of the body, such as the intestines. Does the patient have what is known as “persistent COVID-19” without knowing how to define it correctly at this time? Is it a new infection? It is impossible to solve these hypotheses without a genomic sequencing of the virus.
Secondary infections, which are rare but occur worldwide
The first recorded case with a second confirmed infection was from Hong Kong. The patient was 33 years old and his second infection episode was asymptomatic, unlike his first, which occurred 142 days earlier.
The second case is from a 25-year-old American patient from Nevada who had a first positive test in April and a second positive test in June. The patient was negative between the two episodes. Again, the viral genome sequencing identified a true secondary infection. Unfortunately, this second infection was more serious for him than the first.
The third case is of an 89-year-old German woman living in the Netherlands. She suffered from a significant number of comorbidities and unfortunately did not survive her second infection, which was more severe than the first, as confirmed by the viral genome sequence. These cases of new infections are rare, but they raise crucial questions about the immunity conferred by an initial infection against SARS-Cov-2 and the ability of its genome to mutate.