Coronavirus patients declared recovered who later test positive for the disease are still expelling dead lung cells rather than getting a new infection, the World Health Organization (WHO) told AFP on Wednesday.
South Korean health officials reported more than 100 such cases in April, raising concerns that patients who had recovered could become reinfected.
“We are aware that some patients test positive after they clinically recover,” a WHO spokesperson told AFP, without making specific reference to the South Korean cases.
“From what we currently know — and this is based on very recent data — it seems they these patients are expelling left over materials from their lungs, as part of the recovery phase.”
People infected with the new coronavirus build up antibodies starting a week or so after infection or the onset of symptoms, research has shown.
But it is still not clear, experts say, whether the body systematically builds up enough immunity to ward off a new attack by the virus or, if it does, how long such immunity lasts.
As for the recovered patients who tested negative and then, weeks later, positive, more research is needed, according to the WHO.
“We need systematic collection of samples from recovered patients to better understand how long they shed live virus,” the spokesperson said.
“We also need to understand if this means they can pass the virus to other people — having live virus does not necessarily mean it can be passed to another person.”
In a recent interview with BBC, infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerhove, part of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, explained the “dead cell” scenario.
“As the lungs heal, there are parts of the lung that are dead cells that are coming up. These are fragments of the lungs that are actually testing positive,” she said.
“It is not infectious virus, it’s not reactivation. It is actually part of the healing process.”
“Does that mean they have immunity? Does that mean they have a strong protection against reinfection? We don’t know the answer to that yet.”
For some viruses, such as the measles, those who contract it are immune for life.
For other coronaviruses such as SARS, immunity lasted from a few months to a couple of years.
The pandemic has now killed more than 257,000 people globally and officially infected nearly 3.7 million, although with only the most serious cases being tested the number is believed to be far higher.
© 2020 AFP
CNN’s Cuomo slams Trump advisers for attacking Fauci: ‘Why doesn’t Captain Carnage tell his sycophants to shut up?’
On CNN Tuesday, Chris Cuomo slammed President Donald Trump's aides for attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci — and their boss for allowing it to continue despite knowing Fauci is correct.
"Trump knows Fauci is a trusted source," said Cuomo. "Given what just came out of his mouth, we have to ask why is he trying to destroy Fauci? And the answer is because Fauci keeps telling you the truth about COVID-19."
"If the president isn't behind it, why is his campaign pushing out a staffer like Stephen Moore, who is openly trying to smear Fauci's decades-long service?" said Cuomo. "The guy is supposed to be an economic analyst. What about this from Peter Navarro, another Trumper? Now he's a Fauci critic? These guys want to talk about being trustworthy and records of getting things wrong, and they work for Trump and never admit his legendary lies? And Dan Scavino, deputy chief of staff for communications, he posted this cartoon, mocking the top infectious disease specialist on his Facebook page as he calls him his colleague."
Senior Trump advisor says a senior White House advisor ‘has been wrong about everything’
On Tuesday, in an op-ed for USA TODAY, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro attacked the nation's foremost infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, claiming that he "has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on."
"In late January, when I was making the case on behalf of the president to take down the flights from China, Fauci fought against the president’s courageous decision — which might well have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives," wrote Navarro. "When I warned in late January in a memo of a possibly deadly pandemic, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was telling the news media not to worry."
Anderson Cooper tears into Trump for lying about coronavirus death rate: ‘This is just ludicrous’
On CNN Tuesday, anchor Anderson Cooper led his show with a searing indictment of President Donald Trump for his ongoing lies about his management of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cooper particularly took umbrage at Trump's claim, at the day's Rose Garden press conference, that "we have just about the lowest mortality rate" and only seem to have more cases because "we do tremendous testing. We have the best testing in the world."
"This is just ludicrous," said Cooper. "This is the president of the United States. More than 130,000 people dead in this country and he's continuing this ridiculous lie, it's nonsensical. It defies any belief. We shouldn't be surprised because this is what he does. This is one of president's favorite lies. The United States is not the best or close to it in deaths — it's the seventh-worst in the world. The testing doesn't discover them. According to Redfield and others, the cases we know about are probably far underestimating the actual spread of this virus."