Re-infection with SARS-CoV-2

19 April 2020

This rapid research brief synthesises the evidence for whether reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 is possible and whether there is any emerging risk that not all patients develop immunity once they clear the virus.

Key findings

  • Anecdotal reports of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 becoming reinfected may be due to testing problems. While we cannot say for certain that reinfection is not possible, the evidence for reinfection is so far not compelling.
  • Overall, based on the changes detected in the blood cells and antibodies seen in most recovered patients, it could be reasonably extrapolated that individuals would be protected from reinfection with the same strain, at least in the short to medium term. However, no direct evidence for immunity in patients exists at present.
  • Population-level studies would be needed to determine with greater certainty whether reinfection can occur in people who have developed antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.
  • A decline in immunity or mutations in the virus could result in a future scenario in which reinfection is possible.

Contributing authors
Professor Andrew Cuthbertson AO FAA FTSE FAHMS
Professor Andrew Cuthbertson AO FAA FTSE FAHMS Chief Scientist, CSL Limited
Image of Professor Trevor Drew OBE FRSB
Professor Trevor Drew OBE FRSB Director, Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, CSIRO.
Image of Professor Dale Godfrey FAHMS
Professor Dale Godfrey FAHMS The Doherty Institute
Image of Professor Kanta Subbarao
Professor Kanta Subbarao The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
Peer reviewers
Image of Professor Chris Goodnow FAA FRS
Professor Chris Goodnow FAA FRS Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Image of Professor David Gordon
Professor David Gordon Flinders University
Image of Dr Branka Grubor-Bauk
Dr Branka Grubor-Bauk The University of Adelaide
Image of Professor John Shine AC PresAA
Professor John Shine AC PresAA President of the Australian Academy of Science
Image of Professor Carola Vinuesa
Professor Carola Vinuesa FAA Australian National University
Image of Professor Steven Wesselingh FAHMS
Professor Steven Wesselingh FAHMS Executive Director South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)

© 2020 Australian Academy of Science

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