KP researchers record first case of Covid re-infection

Published November 15, 2020
In this file photo, a paramedic wearing protective gear takes a nose-swab sample to be tested for the coronavirus in Karachi. — Reuters/File
In this file photo, a paramedic wearing protective gear takes a nose-swab sample to be tested for the coronavirus in Karachi. — Reuters/File

PESHAWAR: With the country witnessing the second wave of coronavirus, a group of researchers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has recorded the first instance of Covid-19 re-infection.

Principal investigator of a study and Khyber Medical University Vice-Chancellor Prof Ziaul Haq told Dawn that the Mardan resident was diagnosed with coronavirus again more than four months after first infection.

He said the 41-year-old male health worker, who worked in Islamabad, had developed flu-like illness before testing positive for coronavirus on June 6 and was cleared of Covid-19 on June 19 with reactive antibodies but four months and 13 days later, he was re-infected carrying non-reactive antibodies.

Prof Zia said the virus symptoms were severe in the re-infection case, which was detected during a study carried out by a team of researchers under his supervision.

41-year-old health worker was first diagnosed with virus in June, says KMU VC

The team comprised KMU Public Health Reference Laboratory director Dr Yasar Yousafzai, Dr Noor Wazir of Hayatabad Medical Complex, public health experts Dr Aamer Khan and Sheraz Farid, and Dr Akhtar Sherin of Kohat, while the findings of the study titled ‘Covid-19 re-infection in Pakistan’ was published in the Journal of the Ayub Medical College, Abbottabad.

Prof Zia declared the study findings alarming and said the re-infection case stressed the need for understanding the virology and characteristics of Covid-19 and checking whether the antibody response was truly protective and whether the re-infection was caused by the fading immunity or by a mutant virus.

He said little was known about the pathophysiology and immunology of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus-2 (Sars-CoV-2).

“It is not clear yet whether Sars-CoV-2 infection produces long-term immune protection or a short-lived immunity that would fade with the passage of time,” he said.

The study revealed that the Covid-19 incidence was on the rise worldwide as a total of 500,000 new cases were reported across the world on Nov 6.

It added that in the second wave of the virus, western countries were reporting more cases compared with the first one.

According to the study, the coronavirus re-infection cases are reported in Israel and China rejecting the notion that the recovery of infected persons warrants lifelong immunity against the virus.

A study in China recently revealed that two local women were re-infected on the 66th and 75th day of the first infection, respectively.

The Netherlands and Israel, too, have recorded similar cases with recovered patients reporting re-infection one and three months respectively after the first infection.

According to the KP researchers, the re-infection case had no known immune deficiencies but had fever (100 degree Fahrenheit) and oxygen saturation of 90–92 per cent.

Prof Zia said the winter season was suitable for many respiratory viruses and could cause the coronavirus to spread.

He called for measures to control and prevent the virus.

The KMU VC said in the winter season, there were close contacts among people as more indoor activities with poor ventilation, kids and youngsters in educational institutions could be carrier to elders, majority of people forgot the “new normal” and back to “normal” with no wearing of mask, handshakes and hugs, handwashing and maintaining 6 feet distance.

“I repeat my stand: we shouldn’t declare a pre-mature victory against coronavirus and continue with the preventive measures regardless of the age, comorbidity or previous infection,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2020

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