AMSTERDAM / BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Two people in Europe have re-infected with the coronavirus, regional public broadcasters in Belgium and the Netherlands reported. The news raised concerns about immunity to the virus amid the raging pandemic.
Earlier this week, researchers in Hong Kong reported a man who re-contracted the coronavirus four and a half months after recovering.
This has raised doubts about the effectiveness of potential vaccines against the virus, although experts say that in order to confirm concerns, many more cases of reinfection need to be recorded.
Television companies reported on Tuesday that two patients – in the Netherlands and Belgium – have also re-contracted the coronavirus. The Dutch NOS quoted virologist Marion Koopmans, who described the Dutch patient as an elderly person with a weakened immune system.
Coopmans said that the cases when the coronavirus remained in the body for a long time and only then became activated are better studied.
It is possible to speak of a true re-infection, as in Hong Kong, Belgium and the Netherlands, if there is a genetic analysis of the viruses that caused both the first and second infections – the second time the virus should be slightly different.
“It doesn't scare me that someone is infected again,” said Koopmans, an adviser to the Dutch government. – “We still have to see how often this will happen.”
Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst told Belgian broadcaster VRT that he was not surprised by the reinfection case in Hong Kong, because this has already been recorded in Belgium: the woman contracted COVID-19 first in the second week of March and then in June.
“There may be exceptions, but they exist, and this is not just one case,” said Van Ranst. – “This is not good news.”
The scientist said that the woman in Belgium initially had relatively mild symptoms of COVID-19, and it is possible that the body did not produce enough antibodies to prevent new infections – although these antibodies still help fight the disease.
(Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels. Translated by Olga Beskrovnova. Edited by Anna Kozlova)