Background: COVID-19 reinfections could be a major aggravating factor in this current pandemic, as this would further complicate potential vaccine development and help to maintain worldwide virus pockets. To investigate this critical question, we conducted a clinical meta-analysis including all available currently reported cases of potential COVID-19 reinfections.
Methods: We searched for all peer-reviewed articles in the search engine of the National Center for Biotechnology Information. While there are over 30.000 publications on COVID-19, only about 15 specifically target the subject of COVID-19 reinfections. Available patient data in these reports was analyzed for age, gender, time of reported relapse after initial infection and persistent COVID-19 positive PCR results.
Results: Following the first episode of infection, cases of clinical relapse are reported at 34 (mean) ± 10,5 days after full recovery. Patients with clinical relapse have persisting positive COVID-19 PCR testing results until 39 ± 9 days following initial positive testing. For patients without clinical relapse, positive testing was reported up to 54 ± 24 days. There were no reports of any clinical reinfections after a 70-day period following initial infection.
Conclusions: Reports of COVID-19 reinfections all appear within a vulnerable timeframe, where affected patients are still tested positive for COVID-19 via PCR. According to our data, it is most likely that all reported cases of COVID-19 reinfections are in fact protracted initial infections. To diagnose a true COVID-19 reinfection, positive COVID-19 testing combined with recurrent clinical symptoms occurring outside of this timeframe is required. This article is protected by copyright.