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Reinfection with COVID-19 unlikely to cause deaths

A study has found that those reinfected by COVID-19 often present with severe symptoms, but are unlikely to be fatal.

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Image credit: quatrox / 123rf

The study, conducted by the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi analysed “breakthrough infections” — or the small number of vaccinated individuals who are still reinfected by a disease. Conducted over the April-May period the study reported 63 breakthrough infections, of which 36 patients received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccines, while 27 received at least one dose. Of these reinfections, 36 were reported to be from COVID-19 variants, of which 23 were of the so-called “India variant” – B.1.167 – first reported within the country.

Critically, no individuals who were vaccinated died of the disease over this two month period, highlighting the critical nature of vaccines in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. For only 63 cases of reinfection to have been reported by the study is also encouraging, as this would give a promising level of efficacy to the vaccines given that millions of people have now received at least one dose. 

Two recent studies suggested that people infected with COVID-19 or vaccinated against the disease may have a lifelong immune defence against the disease. This was speculated based on a full year of immunity following vaccination (with the limitation of these studies simply being that not enough time has passed for further study). However, this does not entirely rule out the potential for reinfection. The apparent permanence of antibodies only serves to establish that a potentially more effective immune response can be mounted by the body against the disease. 

This fact may be supported by the fact that cases of reinfection were often followed by advanced states of fever — indicating a heightened immune response to reinfection — but not by fatality. This would suggest that the presence of antibodies before infection, whether through previous infection or vaccination, is allowing an effective defence against COVID-19 in those who are reinfected. 

India’s COVID-19 second wave appears to be declining, however, we are far from a point of celebration. As Health Issues India reported earlier this week

“While the news of a consistent decline in new cases may come as a welcome relief, it cannot be denied that the second wave has exerted a considerable toll on India. Deaths in the second wave have risen to world record breaking highs, as have the number of daily new cases. While the worst of the second wave appears to have passed India at the current moment, this does not mean that we are out of the danger zone.”

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