Just when you thought it would be safe again someday soon to come out of coronavirus hiding (aka stay-at-home) and swim in the public waters… we discover another Covid-19 “shark” potentially patrolling those waters!
The message has been that we need to flatten the curve and achieve herd immunity.
Two key corollaries are (1) a higher portion of the population has it than we know (thanks to slow testing) and (2) younger populations are at low risk for developing serious complications from the virus.
Finally, hopes for ultimate victory have been pinned to quickly developing a safe and effective vaccine. Unfortunately, new data casts serious concerns about all of this!
Covid-19 Antibodies May Not Be Strong Enough for Immunity
A recent study by a team at Fudan University analyzed blood samples from 175 patients who had previously tested positive to Covid-19, experienced moderate symptoms (viz., fever, cough, exhaustion, and labored breathing)—but had fully recovered and tested negative to the virus.
What the study found was both shocking and very concerning.
They found that nearly a third had very low levels (titers) of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs). In fact, in some cases, the antibodies couldn’t be detected at all!
This means that individuals with very low NAbs might not have enough to provide protection (immunity) to Covid-19. This means the possibility of becoming reinfected could be high.
If true, this means any hope of achieving herd immunity and eventually putting this pandemic behind us could be a false hope.
Additionally, if confirmed by further research, this finding could result in some additional scary takeaways.
First, data has demonstrated that secondary attacks could target heart tissue rather than the lungs—leading to acute heart failure. This has been consistently reported as one of the concerning behaviors of SARS-CoV-2.
Furthermore, early data seems to indicate that secondary exposure (infection) is much harsher for patients—leading to an even higher fatality rate.
Second, the study found that the lowest NAbs titers were in younger patients. This means that young folks could have a false sense of security.
They may be fine… during round one. But weeks, even months, later… they could be reinfected with serious consequences.
Third, the study found that the Covid-19 antibodies lacked efficacy when attacking other strains of coronavirus—including SARS (SARS-CoV-1) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV). This means the potential for developing a broader vaccine may not be possible.
Finally, though we may feel like we are slowly beginning to succeed at flattening the curve, it may turn out to be only a momentary illusion—a lull in the storm akin to being in the eye of a hurricane.
New Threat: Could Covid-19 Reactivate?
Even more concerning, this news comes out at the same time we get troubling reports out of South Korea.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported on Monday that 51 people from Daegu (the epicenter of South Korea’s Covid-19 outbreak) had tested positive again for the virus after being confirmed as recovered and testing negative for the coronavirus.
The experts have indicated that it was highly unlikely that they were reinfected but, rather, it appears the virus was reactivated!
This development adds more concerns for us. Not only could folks potentially be reinfected but the virus could go dormant for an unknown period of time and then reactivate—in a much more aggressive attack!
Conclusion: Coronavirus Reinfection & Reactivation Implications
This virus is wicked sneaky—like a combination of Houdini and a honey badger.
The hope has been that (1) we can get the economy running again quickly and (2) younger people are at lower risk.
Unfortunately, like a shapeshifter, Covid-19 is not that easy to understand and contain.
The lockdowns do appear to be flattening the curve. However, if further research reveals the very real potential of reinfection and/or reactivation, then any attempts to quickly unwind those non-pharmaceutical interventions (i.e., social distancing measures) could light the fuse on a much more devastating viral time-bomb!
If detonated, this bomb could unleash further coronavirus devastation on a much broader segment of our population—and seriously overwhelm the healthcare system.
It is critical that we fully research these possibilities before rushing to unwind NPIs. Failure to do so could—despite everyone’s desire to resume normal lives—unleash unknown and highly undesirable secondary consequences.
These consequences could be severe enough to usher in a much more apocalyptic future for our nation.
We advise our readers to continue executing extreme caution when interacting with others. Always maintain your situational awareness!
I know we are all going a little stir-crazy, beginning to feel the economic consequences, and dreaming of getting back to a normal life (whatever that new “normal” will look like) as quickly as possible. However, we must be cautious and move slowly—there is a lot we don’t know about the virus!
Can we get reinfected? Can we be carriers of a dormant virus—one that can reactivate at some point… with a much worse pathogenic outcome?
We must avoid the rush to get back to our former life! Patience is a virtue—especially in this coronavirus crisis.
Be careful and keep an eye on the empirical research that is now beginning to be performed. Knowledge is power and action in the absence of knowledge can be very dangerous—akin to blindly strolling through a minefield!