A case of reinfection from COVID-19 has emerged in Pakistan giving rise to the speculation that there is more than one strains of novel coronavirus in Pakistan, claims Dr Salman Kazmi
Salman Kazmi, who is general secretary of Young Doctors Association (YDA), took to the Facebook to issue the warning. In a post he wrote:
“Just seen a case of reinfection from COVID-19 with more severe symptoms. This shows we have more than one strains around as we don’t have the capacity to test strains. So please be careful and always take precautions. This is the first case I have seen with proper symptoms of reinfection.”
While speaking to the Business Recorder Dr Kazmi shared that a doctor at Mayo hospital had contracted COVID-19 three months ago with mild symptoms. He had tested positive for COVID-19 at the time, and then tested negative after he recovered. The same doctor has now tested positive again, having tested twice from both govt and private hospital. This time the said doctor’s symptoms are more severe.
Even though presence of single strain doesn’t assure that a patient wouldn't get re-infected since antibodies produced by our bodies as a reaction to the COVID-19 can only protect us from getting re-infected for three months, presence of multiple strains increase the chances of re-infection. Some reports tell us that China reported 5%-10% such people who had recovered from COVID and then tested positive again. In South Korea, more than 160 people tested positive again after they had recovered from COVID-19.
What is a viral strain?
A strain is a genetic variant or a sub-type of a microorganism caused by genetic mutation when cell replicates itself. They are significant in tackling disease or a pandemic in case of corona-virus, because these variations of mutations lead to changes in how a virus behaves. Different strains of virus attack their host differently; some can be more lethal than others, according to the Medical News Today.
For instance, a low fatality rate 2% in Pakistan as compared to the rest of the world 5% indicates that virus strain in Pakistan is less deadly. However, readmission of a COVID-19 patient with more severe symptoms is a something to be worried about, especially since the country doesn’t have the capacity to test different types of strains.
Why are strains significant?
Different strains of virus are significant, even if the mutations are minute. These changes in the genetic sequence not only determine how virus would effect it’s host but also impacts the effectiveness of the vaccine. For instance, every years scientists prepare a new vaccine for the influenza virus because mutations occurred in the virus render the existing vaccine useless.
In case of COVID-19, emergence of these different strains is worrisome since we haven’t been able to prepare even a single vaccine to tackle the pandemic that has affected more than 213 countries and territories and put the life at halt.
How many strains of cornoavirus are there?
The exact numbers of coronavairus strains isn’t available, however, according to the Journal of Translation Medicine, the virus has picked up specific mutation patterns in distinct geographical regions.
Another joint team of researchers from the University of Maryland and Ulisse Biomed, an Italian biotech company, anaylyzed eight recurrent mutations in 220 samples of COVID-19 patients.