Karnataka hospitals report spate of suspected Covid-19 reinfections

The thought of contracting Covid-19 may be unsavoury in itself. Now, hospitals are noting cases of suspected reinfections with the number said to be as high as 100.

Officially, the government says there is no laboratory evidence of Covid-19 reinfection in Karnataka. But that has not stopped several government and private hospitals to report cases tentatively billed as “clinical possible reinfections,” because they manifest all the clinical indications of reinfection.

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“All such cases have one thing in common: the second episode of infection is always more severe than the first,” said Dr C Nagaraja, Director of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Chest Diseases (RGICD), which has recorded six cases of “possible reinfection.”

“All are under the age of 45 and were mildly symptomatic in their first episode. The second episode was usually noted 1.5 months later and came with serious issues such as breathlessness and body myalgia. CT-scans showed changes within the lungs,” Dr Nagaraja added.

At Victoria Hospital, five cases of reinfection were noted, all of them private citizens. A further four were reported at Ramaiah Memorial Hospital, three of whom are doctors and one a patient, according to Dr Naresh Shetty, president. “All came between six and 10 weeks of the first infection,” Dr Shetty said.

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However, confirmation is lacking. Barring RGICD’s cases, which have been referred to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for verification (the results are still pending), few have been sent for genomic confirmation, because the samples of the first infection are missing and because genomic sampling is expensive.

Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said the government has access to a facility at Nimhans to test possible reinfection. “The government has already formed an expert committee to study the long-term effects of Covid infection. We will take further measures once we get their report,” he said.

Underreported

Meantime, at least one expert believes that the true numbers of reinfection are higher than what we know. “But without the first infection sample it is not possible to confirm the fact,” said Professor Vinod Scaria, a pioneer in Precision Medicine and Clinical Genomics at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) in New Delhi who has helped to prove reinfections.

He added that “In the Sars-CoV-2 virus, reinfections happen when a mutated version of the same virus successfully evades the immune system,” and clarified that some 80 such genetic mutations to the virus have already been found in lab settings around the world.

Officially, India has six proven cases of reinfection so far (all of them medicos).

“It is difficult to prove these cases without a genomic test,” admitted Interventional pulmonologist Sachin D of Manipal Hospitals. “But there are certain clinical markers we can check to tag a case as a clinical possible reinfection’.” The hospital said it has noted up to eight such
cases.


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