New Covid-19 Variants Reshape Our Understanding Of Reinfection

Random variation is an essential component of all living things. It drives diversity, and it is why there are so many different species. Viruses are no exception. Most viruses are experts at changing genomes to adapt to their environment. We now have evidence that the virus that causes Covid, SARS-CoV-2, not only changes, but changes in ways that are significant. This is the fourth part of a series of articles on how the virus changes and what that means for humanity. Read the rest: part onepart two, and part three.

In the previous articles of this series, I explored how SARS-CoV-2 changes, how those changes contribute to immune escape, and what this all means for global vaccination efforts.

An aspect of SARS-CoV-2 particularly relevant to this discussion—one that remains under-examined more broadly—is its ability to reinfect the same host twice. While Covid-19 reinfections have been reported and confirmed previously, the case of one 45-year-old woman in Brazil is the first to involve the mutation E484K, a defining feature of the South African variant 501.V2. It is also a mutation experts fear might evade even a robust immune response.

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Originally published on Forbes (January 15, 2021)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.