First Netherlands case of Covid-19 re-infection confirmed
A re-infection with the coronavirus has been confirmed in the Netherlands, virologist Marion Koopmans, an important advisor for the Dutch government and the World Health Organization, said in response to similar news from Hong Kong. The Dutch patient is an elderly person with a weakened immune system, Koopmans said, NOS reports.
"SARS-CoV-2 infections all have a different fingerprint, a genetic code," Koopmans said. "People can carry something with them for a long time after an infection and occasionally secrete a little RNA." For an official re-infection, researchers must be able to show that the RNA codes differ. This appears to be the case with the patients in the Netherlands and Hong Kong.
In Belgium, a re-infection also came to light this week. A woman in Leuven got the coronavirus infection for the second time roughly three months after her first bout with the virus. "There are indeed enough differences to be able to speak of a different strain, a second infection," Belgian virologist Marc van Ranst said on current affairs program Terzake. "It's not good news. You hope that you are out of harm's way. Hopefully that is the case in most cases."
The Belgian patient had mild symptoms the first time around, according to NOS. "Then your body produces fewer antibodies. The antibodies from the first time do not help enough to prevent the second infection," Van Ranst said. According to him, it is not yet clear whether these re-infections are exceptions or whether many more can be expected."
According to Koopmans, the world health authorities expected that there would be reinfections, as this is common with respiratory diseases. But this is the first evidence that it is actually happening. "Respiratory infections can strike twice, or more often. We know that you are not protected for life if you have had the infection and that is what we expect with Covid," Koopmans said. There is a clear immune response after an infection. "We expect that this will provide protection against a subsequent infection. So the only question is how long that protection will last."
Koopmans added that these re-infections don't scare her. Certainly not in the Dutch case, where the patient concerned had a weakened immune system. "We have to investigate these cases carefully and see if it occurs more often," she added.