Breakthrough South Korean Study Finds Recovered COVID Patients Who Test Positive Aren’t Infectious

In what appears to be yet another strike against public officials like LA County’s Barbara Ferrer – that is, Democrats and others who insist that lockdowns should continue perhaps until a vaccine has been discovered and that police should punish anyone who dares violate these orders – a study from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that patients who test positive for COVID-19 after recovering from the illness appear to be shedding dead copies of the virus.

That would suggest that these patients are not infectious, the scientists said, which helped dispel fears that some patients can remain infectious for months after being infected. While the study doesn’t answer every question about the virus’s longevity – such as patients who almost appear to have developed a “chronic” form of the illness because their symptoms have persisted for so long.

But still, the finding was greeted as a major relief, and, if anything, should encourage economies to reopen more quickly, as a potential trigger for reinfection that had panicked some experts appears to be a non-issue.

The research also undermines the reliability of ‘antibody’ tests like the ones NY Gov Andrew Cuomo insisted would be ‘critical’ for NY’s reopening.

The results mean health authorities in South Korea will no longer consider people infectious after recovering from the illness. Research last month showed that so-called PCR tests for the coronavirus’s nucleic acid can’t distinguish between dead and viable virus particles, potentially giving the wrong impression that someone who tests positive for the virus remains infectious.

The research may also aid in the debate over antibody tests, which look for markers in the blood that indicate exposure to the novel coronavirus. Experts believe antibodies probably convey some level of protection against the virus, but they don’t have any solid proof yet. Nor do they know how long any immunity may last.

A recent study in Singapore showed that recovered patients from severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, are found to have “significant levels of neutralizing antibodies” nine to 17 years after initial infection, according to researchers including Danielle E. Anderson of Duke-NUS Medical School.

Other scientists have found higher levels of IgM, an antibody that appears in response to exposure to an antigen, in children, according to an article published on medRxiv. That suggests younger populations have the potential to produce a more potent defense against Covid-19. The study has not been certified by peer review.

Bloomberg offers a succinct review of some of the research into the infectious qualities of the virus, and the efficacy of antibodies in keeping patients safe from reinfection. As BBG shows, studies of SARS, which is related to the virus that causes COVID-19, suggest that antibodies keep patients safe for years, undermining warnings about a possible second wave, or worries that the virus might become endemic, which were recently raised by the WHO.

The research may also aid in the debate over antibody tests, which look for markers in the blood that indicate exposure to the novel coronavirus. Experts believe antibodies probably convey some level of protection against the virus, but they don’t have any solid proof yet.

Nor do they know how long any immunity may last.

A recent study in Singapore showed that recovered patients from severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, are found to have “significant levels of neutralizing antibodies” nine to 17 years after initial infection, according to researchers including Danielle E. Anderson of Duke-NUS Medical School.

Other scientists have found higher levels of IgM, an antibody that appears in response to exposure to an antigen, in children, according to an article published on medRxiv. That suggests younger populations have the potential to produce a more potent defense against Covid-19. The study has not been certified by peer review.

The study’s findings are apparently convincing enough for South Korean health authorities to no longer require patients to be re-tested after they’ve recovered from COVID-19 and all symptoms have subsided.

As a result of the findings in the South Korea study, authorities said that under revised protocols, people should no longer be required to test negative for the virus before returning to work or school after they have recovered from their illness and completed their period of isolation.

“Under the new protocols, no additional tests are required for cases that have been discharged from isolation,” the Korean CDC said in a report. The agency said it will now refer to “re-positive” cases as “PCR re-detected after discharge from isolation.”

Some coronavirus patients have tested positive again for the virus up to 82 days after becoming infected. Almost all of the cases for which blood tests were taken had antibodies against the virus.

If nothing else, this study is just the latest reminder of how much we don’t know about the virus.

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