Two patients were reinfected with the coronavirus in Europe, according to local broadcasters who confirmed the incidents with virologists.
The patients, one from Belgium and the other from the Netherlands, were confirmed to have been reinfected with COVID-19, Reuters reported.
Marian Koopmans, a Dutch virologist, confirmed to broadcaster NOS that the patient from the Netherlands was elderly with a compromised immune system, but did not provide more details about the infection.
Koopmans told NOS that in order for reinfection, a virus must change its genetic code. She added during the interview with the broadcaster that, given the veracity of the virus, recurrence of infection was to be expected.
“That someone would pop up with a reinfection, it doesn’t make me nervous,” she said, according to Reuters. “We have to see whether it happens often.”
The second patient in Belgium was a woman who had contracted COVID-19 first in March and then a second time in June, Reuters reported. The woman, who was reported to be in her 50s, had a low level of coronavirus antibodies in her system, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst told broadcaster VRT.
Like Koopmans, Van Ranst cited a genetic mutation of the virus that may have been the cause for reinfection. And whether or not the recurrence of infection will be more rampant in the community is still uncertain.
“Viruses mutate and that means that a potential vaccine is not going to be a vaccine that will last forever, for 10 years, probably not even five years. Just as for flu, this will have to be redesigned quite regularly,” he said.
On Monday, researchers in Hong Kong reported the area’s first confirmed reinfection of the virus, 4 1/2 months after the patient’s initial infection.
“This case illustrates that reinfection can occur just after a few months of recovery from the first infection,” the researchers said in a press release. “Our findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may persist in the global human population as is the case for other common-cold associated human coronaviruses, even if patients have acquired immunity via natural infection.”
News of the reinfections across the globe come as health experts struggle to learn more about coronavirus infections and how long a patient can remain immune to the disease after they have become healthy again.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a guidance stating that a person who had been infected with the virus and recovered would have a window of immunity of three months. However, about 10 days later, the agency walked back the guidance.