Health & Wellness

COVID-19 Why Some People Test Positive Again After Recovering

Firstly, there is currently no cure or vaccines against COVID-19 but infected people recover every day: An explanation to this mystery

Oh, did I say mystery? Well, this is not even close to being a mystery, it is pure science! You might have been wondering how the world records a daily rise of the number of coronavirus-recovered cases but the health authorities keep on reminding humanity that there is no cure or vaccines. You might have said: then how are people recovering? Dont worry; there is an explanation for that. All you need to decipher this mystery is to afford me a little bit of your time so that we can grope into a few facts in science.
When someone gets infected with coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), the causal virus (SARS-CoV-2) gets into his or her body system and quite instantaneously, the body starts responding to the viral invader. The bodys immune system responds by producing some proteins which are capable of fighting the infection. These proteins are called antibodies.

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When a coronavirus patient gets admitted into the hospital, what doctors and nurses do is to support the life of the patient by providing an avenue by which the body can produce more antibodies, ultimately, giving the bodys immune system a better chance of fighting the infection. When any suspected or prospective COVID-19 patient gets to the medical facility, health workers collect respiratory swabs (or nasopharyngeal samples), as well as blood samples to confirm if the person is infected. It is only after they detect the presence of viruses (using some diagnostic kits) in the samples collected will they determine if the patient is infected or not.
Now, lets say the patient is infected. If the patients immune system is competent enough, the viruses that were detected by the diagnostic kits will be killed off by the body’s natural defenses (antibodies) and the next time doctors check for the virus, they will not detect any again. And if, according to the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the patient tests negative (no detectable virus) twice, at least 24 hours apart, the patient is officially recovered from COVID-19.

That is the simple explanation of the recovery of coronavirus patients. It can be effortlessly deduced that when proper and adequate supportive care is rendered to COVID-19 patients, they will have a better chance of recovery. That is why face masks, nutritional supplementation, oxygen masks, suitable medications, etc. should be available and all these are measures that are taken just to give the body a better fighting chance.

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I know you may be tempted to ask, yet again, but we have heard of COVID-19 patients that were previously recovered but are testing positive to the disease, again. Yes, no mystery attached either; the concept is also very explainable.
If you have been paying attention, you would have realized that the way people recover from COVID-19 is by the bodys natural defensive soldiers, antibodies. Just to protect the patient from a further threat from the same disease, the immune system will automatically keep some cells after recovery. These cells are called lymphocytes (or memory cells). Lymphocytes can remember the viruses causing COVID-19 if they come in contact with them after recovery and they will quickly organize a big fight to kill them off, again. If by chance, this happens, the patient is regarded as immune, to COVID-19.
Quite unfortunately, this immunity is not perfect and it varies with different diseases. For some diseases (e.g. smallpox), anyone who was infected will be immune to the disease for life. In others (e.g. mumps), the body forgets details about the infection after a while and the lymphocytes wane off with time. That is why mump patients are advised to get booster shots of their vaccines, just to make the body remember again. Without the booster shot, mump patients are susceptible to the disease if subsequently exposed after a previous recovery (i.e. they can test positive after recovery).
COVID-19 is still a new disease and there are so many unknowns about it, including if or if not recovery from the disease can elicit immunity for a long time. That means we do not know if the body easily forgets information about the virus (like the case of mumps), leaving the recovered patient susceptible again; or if the lymphocytes linger for long in the patients body. However, with the daily trend of things concerning COVID-19, scientists all over the world have a lot to say.

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Jeong Eun-kyeong, Director of the Korea CDC, in response to the high rate of positive recovered patients in the country, opines that the virus may have reactivated in the patients and these reactivated viruses might have been the reason for their subsequent positive testing.
Furthermore, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, in his own opinion of the matter believes that people who recover from COVID-19 are protected against re-infection.
Many countries all over the world have implemented total lockdown as a way of containing the spread of COVID-19. The good thing about this stay-at-home order is that if scientists can affirmatively show that recovered patients are immune to the coronavirus while we ensure no more spread is taking place, then a patient who has recovered can help the world by caring for those who are infected.
Once communities all over the world pass the peak of this pandemic, the number of recovered persons will increase. As this trend continues, it is easy to picture the fact that the risk of transmission will considerably fall and ultimately, isolation and social distancing can wane off, then we go back to our normal lives. Nevertheless, before this can work, we need to follow all the preventive guidelines outlined to tackle COVID-19 (social distancing, hand washing, good personal hygiene, etc.). By doing this, we are not only protecting ourselves but also our community, state, country, and planet.

Ige Abdullah

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One Comment

  1. Wow!..
    This is precise Immunology an aspect of Microbiology!..
    A very good research!… Keep ’em up!

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