A man from Hong Kong has today become the first documented case of someone being reinfected with coronavirus after recovering from the virus, researchers at the University of Hong Kong have confirmed.
In April, the man was discharged from hospital having been cleared of the disease, but tested positive again after returning to Hong Kong from Spain on 15 August.
According to researchers, the man contracted a different form of the virus to that which he originally caught, but remained asymptomatic.
The findings suggest that the virus may continue to spread in mutated form even when a majority of people have gained immunity to it.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged people not to jump to conclusions on the basis of a single case.
And one of the scientists who studied the patient said that the findings did not mean that vaccines would not be effective against the new disease.
Dr Kai-Wang To told Reuters: “The finding does not mean taking vaccines will be useless. Immunity induced by vaccination can be different from those induced by natural infection.
“We will need to wait for the results of the vaccine trials to see how effective vaccines are”, he added.
There have been a number of reports of patients in China being reinfected with the virus, but it is unclear whether, like the man in Hong Kong, they had made a full recovery before testing positive again.
Thus far the virus has killed more than 800,000 people around the world, with a recent surge in cases leading to fears of a second wave of infections.