Noida doctor tests Covid-19 positive again, 45 days after recovering from first bout of infection

Updated on Jul 16, 2020 10:36 AM IST
The doctor first tested positive on May 15 when he was working in the isolation ward of Super Specialty Paediatric Hospital and Post Graduate Teaching Institute (Child PGI), following which he was admitted to that ward itself.
Dr Saurabh Srivastava, the head of Covid-19 ward at the Government Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS), Greater Noida, said to his knowledge, the body’s immune system is designed to fight infections by producing antibodies.(Sunil Ghosh/HT Photo. Representative image)
Dr Saurabh Srivastava, the head of Covid-19 ward at the Government Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS), Greater Noida, said to his knowledge, the body’s immune system is designed to fight infections by producing antibodies.(Sunil Ghosh/HT Photo. Representative image)
Hindustan Times, Noida | BySanjeev K Jha

A doctor at the Gautam Budh Nagar district hospital has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) for a second time, 45 days after being cured of the infection, said his colleagues. Experts and biologists, however, said a reinfection was unlikely and it could be that the person never fully recovered from the first infection.

The doctor first tested positive on May 15 when he was working in the isolation ward of Super Specialty Paediatric Hospital and Post Graduate Teaching Institute (Child PGI), following which he was admitted to that ward itself.

He was discharged from the hospital on May 30 after testing negative for the virus. After the mandatory quarantine period (of about 10-15 days), he resumed work at the emergency ward of the district hospital in Sector 30.

About two weeks ago, he complained of dizziness, said one of his colleagues . “He had no symptoms such as fever or cough, but we didn’t want to take any chances. He was made to take a rapid antigen test, where came positive. For reconfirmation, he was tested again on June 27 through the lab-based reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, the definitive test for Covid-19, and that too was positive,” the doctor’s colleague said, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

When contacted, Dr VB Dhaka, the chief medical superintendent (CMS) of the district hospital, declined comment. “I’ve recently taken this charge and don’t know about this case, so I am unable to comment on it,” he said.

Acting chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Nepal Singh did not answer his phone or reply to text messages, despite several attempts to reach him.

Microbiologists, however, said it cannot be assumed that the man was reinfected. “There are many possibilities. Many who are doing the RT-PCR test are not well acquainted with the process, and so we need to check if the reporting was done correctly. The virus can also persist in the body for a very long time -- even up to 45 days in rare cases. Also, there are issues like tests giving out false positives and false negatives,” Dr Shobha Broor, former head, microbiology department, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, said.

Dr Saurabh Srivastava, the head of Covid-19 ward at the Government Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS), Greater Noida, said to his knowledge, the body’s immune system is designed to fight infections by producing antibodies.

“It’s believed that people who have had the virus would have developed Covid-19 antibodies and, hence, would have some level of protection from a recurrent infection. So, there is a possibility that this particular patient may not have fully recovered the first time. Also, the fading away of protective antibodies from the body in some cases cannot be ruled out,” he said.

Experts say there is no evidence of a reinfection globally.

“There is experimental evidence from monkeys that once infected, there is a resistance to a reinfection. In humans, reinfection has not been observed in recovered patients, despite the fact that several months have passed since the first wave of the pandemic. We do not know whether this could be necessarily attributable to antibodies, but the rise of antibodies is correlated to the disappearance of the virus. So, in a nutshell, there is a reason to believe that recovery from infection is associated with the gaining of at least a short-term immunity, courtesy the antibodies,” Dr Anurag Agrawal, director, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research), Delhi, had told HT on July 5.

Gautam Budh Nagar district magistrate Suhas LY said he is looking into the matter. “If there is a chance of reinfection, then we will have to take additional precautions,” he said.

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