Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a CNN interview on Monday that as several new variants of the coronavirus are circulating throughout the world, he is concerned that one in particular could cause those who have already been infected to be sickened again.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that a coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa could be causing reinfections.
"If it becomes dominant, the experience of our colleagues in South Africa indicate that even if you've been infected with the original virus, that there is a very high rate of reinfection to the point where a previous infection does not seem to protect you against reinfection,” Fauci said on Monday.
Reinfections to this point to the coronavirus have occurred, but generally those who have been infected have had a window of immunity.
The British Medical Journal noted a study that indicated that coronavirus antibodies provided 83% protection against reinfections during a five-month period. The journal also showed that out of 6,614 health care workers who had been previously infected, 44 had possible or probable infections.
“We know that reinfections with SARS-CoV-2 can happen,” says Ashleigh Tuite, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “The bigger question is: if reinfections are going to happen, how frequently are they happening?”
The BMJ says that in general, those who have been reinfected by the coronavirus generally face milder symptoms, but there have been several known deaths. Also, those who have been reinfected are still just as capable of spreading the virus to others.
The CDC says that the South Africa variant is one of three it is monitoring. The agency says that the three known variants are likely more transmissible. All three variants have been discovered in the US in recent weeks.
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk.Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook.