Woman caught Covid twice in 20 days, marking a new record

A doctor takes a graft sample from a citizen for nucleic acid testing at a test site in Binhai New Area in northern China’s Tianjin, January 9, 2022.

Zhao Zishuo | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

A healthcare professional has reportedly tested positive for the omicron strain of coronavirus just 20 days after having an infection caused by the delta variant, according to Spanish researchers.

The case study of the 31-year-old woman, who was fully vaccinated and boosted, is to be presented by researchers at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, which takes place in Portugal this coming weekend.

20 day intervals between infections is the shortest known.

The woman was first tested positive on December 20 last year in a PCR test during staff screening at her workplace. The patient, who developed no symptoms, isolated himself for 10 days before returning to work.

On January 10 this year, only 20 days after the first test positive, she developed cough, fever and generally felt unwell and took another PCR test. This was also positive.

Whole genome sequencing showed that the patient had been infected with two different strains of Covid-19. The woman’s first infection was with the delta variant, while the second, in January, was with the more transmissible omicron variant, which had been identified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization in November last year.

Studies have shown that omicron is much more contagious than delta and can evade the immunity people gain from previous infections and Covid vaccination, which protects against serious infection, hospitalization and death.

The Omicron variant has since begun to be replaced by a subvariant of the strain, known as BA.2, while other variants have also since emerged, including a christened XE.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Gemma Recio of the Institut CatalĂ  de Salut in Tarragona, Spain, said the case highlights the potential of the omicron variant to evade the previous immunity acquired either from a natural infection with other variants or from vaccines.

“In other words, people who have had Covid-19 cannot assume that they are protected from re-infection even though they have been fully vaccinated,” Recio said.

“Still, both previous infection with other variants and vaccination appear to partially protect against serious illness and hospitalization in those with omicron.”

She said the case underscored the need to perform genomic surveillance of viruses in infections in those who are fully vaccinated and in reinfections, as “surveillance will help detect variants with the ability to partially avoid the immune response.”

The material has been peer-reviewed by the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases’ selection committee, but there is no complete paper at present, and the authors have not yet submitted the work to a medical journal for publication.

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