A: While we can’t say it is *impossible,* current scientific consensus is that re-infection is *unlikely.*
There are various stories from doctors and patients alike making the rounds about individuals testing positive for COVID-19, perhaps having a mild case and recovering, and then a couple of months later falling ill and testing positive for COVID-19 AGAIN. Obviously this is a frightening and disconcerting prospect.
In a recent insightful piece (linked below), Apoorva Mandavilli interviewed a long list of epidemiologists, virologists, and immunologists, who all agreed that despite anecdotes and fears that immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is short lived, so far the new virus is behaving like most others.
“It may be possible for the coronavirus to strike the same person twice, but it’s highly unlikely that it would do so in such a short window or to make people sicker the second time, they said.”
“What’s more likely is that some people have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after their initial exposure.”
Early on in South Korea, some patients tested positive again after a negative test, leading to concerns about re-infection. But the researchers were unable to grow live virus from any of the samples, and the infected people hadn’t spread the virus to others.
“It was pretty solid epidemiological and virological evidence that reinfection was not happening, at least in those people,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.
A recent study from King’s College London found that levels of neutralizing antibodies, the powerful subtype that can stop the virus from infecting cells, declined sharply within a month, leading some to despair about lasting immunity.
Other immunologists were not as worried:
“This is a famous dynamic of how antibodies develop after infection: They go very, very high, and then they come back down,” according to Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University.
The duration of immunity and how to best measure this is one of the hottest COVID-19 research topics right now–watch this space for a longer post on this topic from the Nerdy Girls soon.
In the meantime, please read the excellent full story.
BOTTOM LINE: while re-infection with COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic thus far is not *impossible*, experts believe it is *unlikely* and *rare*. Phew!