Fifty-one patients who recovered from coronavirus in South Korea have tested positive again, raising fears the virus can be reactivated.
The patients – from the country’s worst-hit city, Daegu – were put in quarantine after being diagnosed with the virus, then tested positive again days being released.
Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said the virus was likely ‘reactivated’, rather than patients becoming re-infected. Scientists at the Government-run health body believe the virus may lay dormant at undetectable levels in human cells. They say that for unknown reasons the viral particles can then be reactivated – but it is unclear if patients become infectious again.
Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases professor at the University of East Anglia said: ‘I agree that these will not be reinfections but I do not think these will be reactivations.”‘Personally I think the most likely explanation is that the clearance samples were false negative.’
Professor Hunter highlighted that conventional coronavirus tests can give the wrong result 20 to 30 per cent of the time.
He believes the test the South Korean patients were given before being released from quarantine wrongly showed they had recovered when they were actually were still infected.
KCDC Director-General Jeong Eun-Kyeong said a team of investigators had been sent to Daegu, the region worst-hit by the coronavirus, to conduct an epidemiological investigation into the cases.
South Korea recorded fewer than 50 new cases of the novel coronavirus today – the lowest daily increase since late February. It brings the nation’s total infections to 10,284.