Medical experts from Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands have recently confirmed that an elderly woman has become the first known person to die from contracting Coronavirus twice, raising questions about how long immunity and antibodies can last.
According to the experts, this is the first time someone is reported to have died from a second reinfection of Coronavirus. However there have been some reported cases of reinfection worldwide.
The researchers who wrote in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the 89 year old Dutch woman suffered from a rare type of bone marrow cancer called Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia.
The woman was admitted into hospital earlier this year with a severe cough and fever, after testing positive for COVID-19.
Five days later she was discharged after doctors noticed some persisting fatigue even after her symptoms subsided completely.
Two days into her chemotherapy treatment, just 59 days after the start of the first COVID-19 disease, -the woman developed fever, cough and had difficulty breathing.
She once again tested positive for Coronavirus, and no antibodies were detected in her blood system when tested on days four and six. Her condition deteriorated on day eight and 14 days later, the woman died.
According to the scientists, her immune system was compromised due to the cell-depleting therapy she received but her natural immune response could still have been “sufficient” to fight-off Covid-19, as the type of treatment she received for cancer “does not necessarily result in life threatening disease.”
The woman was not tested between infections, so researchers have no confirmed negative tests.
But after examining blood samples from both cases they found the genetic makeup of the two viruses to be different.
They therefore concluded that “it is likely that the second episode was a reinfection rather than prolonged shedding.”
In the Lancet Infectious Diseases report released this week, researchers said: “Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 has been reported in at least four individuals worldwide. Thus, previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2 does not necessarily translate to guaranteed total immunity.”
“The implications of reinfections could be relevant for vaccine development and application. From a public health perspective, all individuals—whether previously diagnosed or not—must take identical precautions to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2. Further work is needed to assess immune reactions in vitro after reinfection.”