A Siberian virologist has been infected with the coronavirus for the second time in an experiment to better understand the immunity against the virus. Alexander Chepurnov said that antibody levels were undetectable three months after the first infection and that he was hospitalized after the second outbreak of the disease.
The 68-year-old Chepurnov from Novosibirsk told the local newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that he was infected with SARS-CoV-2 in March. He believes he caught the virus after a stopover in Moscow on his way to a skiing vacation in France. He fell ill and suffered from fever, chest pain and loss of sense of smell. When he returned home, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, but antibody tests later showed he was infected with the corona virus.
He and his research team at the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, then began recording the way his antibodies “behaved” by recording how the levels in his body changed over time.
“The observation [showed]a fairly rapid decline,” he told the newspaper, referring to his antibody levels. “At the end of the third month after the onset of the disease, they were no longer determined.
He then decided to be reinfected to see how his body reacted. He did this by spending time with patients with coronavirus without wearing a mask. He was tested every two weeks to see if he had been reinfected.
Six months after his initial illness, “protection fell,” he said. He fell ill a second time and tested positive for the disease. In the course of the second infection, he was hospitalized. He suffered from high fever, lost his sense of smell and the x-rays showed pneumonia. “The pain was more severe than the first time,” he told Komsomolskaya Pravda.
There are a number of problems with Chepurnov’s experiment. Since his first case of COVID-19 was found only via antibodies, it is difficult to determine whether he suffered from two different strains of the virus. This is necessary to confirm that a person has been re-infected with SARS-CoV-2 and not that the original virus reappears in the body. He also points out that his reaction may not be the same as that of other people. Many more cases of reinfection need to be investigated before any conclusions about immunity can be drawn.
However, Chepurnov’s case is largely consistent with reports of other cases of reinfection reported in the scientific literature. In the Netherlands, an 89-year-old woman died after being reinfected with the coronavirus two months after her initial diagnosis. This was the first known death by reinfection.
A few other case reports suggest that the second infection may be more severe than the first. In the United States, a 25-year-old man from Nevada was hospitalized after reinfection for COVID-19 after recovering from the first case while isolating himself at home.
In Brazil, a 36-year-old doctor was reinfected three months earlier after a mild case of the virus. Researchers said she experienced a “more intense” inflammatory reaction the second time. After the eleventh day of infection, a CT scan showed that she was suffering from acute viral pneumonia.
These reinfection cases have important implications for how long immunity to the virus lasts, with some politicians and scientists currently pressing for “herd immunity” against the pandemic. This would require that the virus be able to penetrate a community so that healthy people can become infected. This would allegedly provide some degree of protection for those who are more vulnerable, as transmission would be significantly reduced.
Chepurnov said his own experiment was a warning against a herd immunity approach. He also said it would have an impact on a vaccine because multiple doses would be required. Therefore Chepurnov believes that the virus will accompany us for many years to come….