No reason to worry about being infected with the coronavirus twice, monkey study suggests

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Credit: Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/AP

With increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths—and “social distancing” now a household word—the possibility of being infected is on everyone’s mind.

As if that weren’t enough to worry about, the surfacing of multiple personal accounts—primarily out of China and Japan—of patients who recovered after infection only to fall ill a second time, have some worried about the possibility of reinfection.

Now, a collaboration of Chinese scientists has dug deeper into whether or not reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 is possible with a small monkey study. The team looked at whether or not non-human primates, rhesus macaques, can become reinfected with SARS-CoV-2. The work was posted on the preprint server bioRxiv on March 14 in a paper titled, “Reinfection could not occur in SARS-CoV-2 infected rhesus macaques.” Their conclusion: there may be no reason to worry about reinfection.

Related article:  We're using a lot of experimental coronavirus treatments. That could make it harder to figure out what works

One explanation then, is that patients were simply not fully recovered, despite meeting discharge criteria. Another could be attributed to the “false negative” RT-PCR test results before their discharge.

The unsuccessful rechallenge in this particular study suggests that the positive tests from previously recovered and discharged patients are likely not due to reinfection.

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