140-Plus Coronavirus Survivors Retest Positive For Disease In South Korea, Raising Questions About Immunity

140-Plus Coronavirus Survivors Retest Positive For Disease In South Korea, Raising Questions About Immunity thumbnail
TOPLINEIn China and South Korea COVID-19 survivors are retesting positive for the virus, further complicating the issues of post-recovery immunity and test validity. Sample testing devices used in diagnosing the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are checked on a production ... [+] line as they are prepared to be included in testing kits for shipment at the…

TOPLINEIn China and South Korea COVID-19 survivors are retesting positive for the virus, further complicating the issues of post-recovery immunity and test validity.

TOPSHOT-SKOREA-HEALTH-VIRUS

Sample testing devices used in diagnosing the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are checked on a production … [+] line as they are prepared to be included in testing kits for shipment at the SD Biosensor bio-diagnostic company near Cheongju, south of Seoul on March 27, 2020.

ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

KEY FACTS

141 COVID-19 survivors in South Korea have retested positive for the disease—the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) is investigating the cause—uncertain whether the second-time positive patients are actually again infected or victims of erroneous tests, says CNN.

Similarly, about 5-10% of recovered patients in Wuhan, China re-tested positive for the virus at the end of March, according to data NPR obtained from Wuhan quarantine facilities that house COVID-19 patients after hospital discharge. 

The immune response to coronavirus, including the duration of immunity,is “not yet  understood,” says the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA has given emergency approval to three antibody tests, which measure recovery from COVID-19, and are just becoming available, though experts have raised serious concerns about the available tests’ accuracy as they hit the market without rigorous clinical vetting. 

South Korea and China have been upheld by the World Health Organization as models in coronavirus testing, still, these nations experience significant issues scaling antibody tests and determining immune levels to prevent a second wave of the disease.

The KCDC will have results in about two weeks to determine whether these twice-positive coronavirus patients are contagious or the result of flawed testing, per CNN.

KEY BACKGROUND

Elected leaders like President Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo place much hope in reopening the economy with COVID-19 survivors, allowing those with antibodies—presumed immune by this logic—to return to work. However, there is no conclusive research that survivors of COVID-19 are immune to the disease. Testing recovered COVID-19 populations may also be plagued by inaccuracy in the U.S.; there are reportedly 90 tests on the market, but only three are FDA-approved.

FURTHER READING

More than 140 seemingly recovered patients have retested positive for Covid-19, says South Korea (CNN)

Mystery In Wuhan: Recovered Coronavirus Patients Test Negative…Then Positive (NPR)

F.D.A. Approves First Coronavirus Antibody Test in U.S. (New York Times
NYT
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Unproven tests. Inaccurate results. Public health labs worry ‘bad data’ could taint US recovery from coronavirus crisis. (USA Today)

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