A lab in Nevada is reporting the first confirmed coronavirus reinfection case in the US. A Nevada man who suffered from the coronavirus in April tested positive again in June after testing negative weeks prior. Doctors suspect that the man was infected with a different strain of the virus, citing genetic evidence isolated in a Nevada lab.
It’s just the latest suggestion that certain mutations of the virus could be more infectious, or more deadly, than others.
While skeptics have claimed that people shouldn’t jump to conclusions because personal details about the case haven’t been disclosed, it’s worth noting that the man is reportedly 25, putting him in the middle of the age group that is most likely to be infected with the virus.
The man, from Washoe County, tested positive in April, then negative two times in May before testing positive again in June, according to a statement from the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory shared with the press.
He initially sought treatment after complaining of a soar throat and fever. After finally testing negative weeks later, the patient said he felt well for a month, before seeking treatment again in late May.
A large group of hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide have emerged as “long haulers”, people whose viral symptoms linger for weeks, sometimes going away for a few days, only to come roaring back.
But that doesn’t appear to be the case here. According to the Washington Post, scientists with the medical school at the University of Nevada at Reno and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory used advanced testing that sequenced the genetic strains, finding they were distinct between the infections.
Laboratory workers worked with scientists from the University of Nevada at Reno School of Medicine to ensure that two samples wouldn’t be confused or tainted in the lab, according to a report in the Reno Gazette-Journal. The scientists even enlisted the help of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office to carry out confirmed “identity testing” on the patient.
Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, said the two positive tests were “genetically distinct.”
“We examined the genomic material of the viruses and samples to investigate this,” Pandori said. “It is just one finding, but it shows that a person can possibly become infected with SARS-CoV-2 a second time.”
“It’s significant in that it’s the first of its kind,” Pandori said. “We know that people can get reinfected by viruses even though they’ve been vaccinated or have had exposure. There was a great unknown as to whether we would see that with [COVID-19] so we know that it can happen now.”
According to Pandori and his fellow scientists at the state laboratory, there have only been three other cases of confirmed reinfection worldwide: two cases in Europe and one in Hong Kong, which was confirmed a week ago.
It’s just the latest evidence to suggest that perhaps instead of focusing on racial diversity during Phase 3 trials, vaccine makers might instead want to make sure a diversity of SARS-CoV-2 strains are represented.