The team of scientists led by Nevada State Public Health Laboratory (NSPHL) said that a patient tested positive again for COVID-19 in June, just 48 days after testing positive for the virus initially in April and having two subsequent negative tests, according to a press release from the university.
“We conclude that it is possible for humans to become infected multiple times by SARS-CoV-2, but the generalizability of this finding is not known,” the team of researchers stated in the study.
The Washoe County, Nev. resident tested positive in June and when the scientists compared the patient’s viral samples from April and June, they noted “significant genetic discordance between the two cases,” which implied the patient had been infected by COVID-19 twice, according to the release. The researchers confirmed the specimens were from the same person by partnering with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Biology Unit, who helped verify their findings.
Reinfection cases may mean that it is possible to catch novel coronavirus more than once, and the severity of each case is unpredictable, according to the researchers.
“If reinfection is possible on such a short timeline, there may be implications for the efficacy of vaccines developed to fight the disease. It may also have implications for herd immunity,” Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, stated in the release.
The scientists said that there is still much to learn about how human immune systems respond to COVID-19.
“After one recovers from COVID-19, we still do not know how much immunity is built up, how long it may last, or how well antibodies play a role in protection against reinfection,” Pandori said.
For now, Pandori said fighting COVID-19 continues to call for the wearing of face masks, social distancing, proper handwashing, contact tracing, quarantining new cases, and wide-scale testing.
“This is a novel disease. We still have a steep learning curve ahead and lots of work to do, especially as inconvenient truths arise,” Pandori said, according to the press release. “It is important to note, that this is a singular finding. It does not provide any information to us with regard to the generalizability of this phenomenon.”