2 Noida, 4 Mumbai healthcare workers are confirmed cases of reinfection | India News

MUMBAI: Two healthcare workers from a Noida hospital could be the country’s first genetically proven cases of Covid-19 reinfection, according to the preprint of a research paper submitted by the prestigious Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research laboratory located in Delhi.
The IGIB team has also established reinfection in four healthcare workers from Mumbai – three from Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central and one from Hinduja Hospital, Mahim. The Mumbai results were submitted to an international medical journal for publication six days ago.
Stating that his laboratory’s work proved Covid-19 reinfection in India, IGIB director Dr Anurag Agarwal told TOI, “Apart from the two cases in a Noida hospital, our laboratory has found variations in six other samples. While four are from Mumbai, two others are from a Delhi hospital.”
Using genetic sequencing, an IGIB team has so far analysed samples of 16 healthcare workers (HCWs) from across the country. Two swab samples per HCW – one from the first infection and another from the second – were used for the sequencing.
In case of the Noida HCWs – a 25-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman — the test showed nine variations between the two SARS-CoV2 viruses that infected them. The HCWs tested PCR-positive for the first time on May 5 and May 17 respectively; the second time was on August 21 and September 5 respectively. The IGIB sequencing machine takes around 24 hours to establish the genetic differences.
Dr Rakesh Gupta from Government Institute of Medical Sciences, Greater Noida, said both the healthcare workers were asymptomatic both times. “While one is admitted in our hospital for observation, the other one is in home isolation,” he added.
Dr Shridhar Sivasubbu from IGIB said these healthcare workers could be diagnosed only because of the continuous surveillance carried out in collaboration with IGIB. “Without surveillance, these workers could have carried the infection around, exposing their family, colleagues and patients,” he said.
“Our analysis suggests that asymptomatic reinfection may be potentially under-reported,” said the IGIB preprint. However, on Tuesday, Indian Council of Medical Research head Dr Balram Bhargava said globally reinfections have been noted, but they are “very rare” and not a “matter of serious concern.”
In Mumbai, three cases of reinfection were suspected among healthcare workers in BYL Nair Hospital and one from PD Hinduja Hospital. All three Nair doctors had tested for Covid-19 for the second time within one to three months of recovering from their first episode. Among them was a resident doctor from the medicine department, a senior medical officer and an additional professor from the department of anaesthesia.
The anaesthesia professor, in her late 40s, suffered the second bout exactly three months after the first infection. Dr Charulata Deshpande, head of the department, recalled the doctor had symptoms such as dry cough, severe bodyache and sore throat during the first infection, while massive exhaustion alerted her of the infection second time round. “Since it was the second time she was infected, we were closely observing her condition. To our relief she has recovered well,” she said. The professor has since resumed work.
The 27-year-old resident doctor from the medicine department tested positive for the second time in a span of a month. Her symptomatic period was 9-10 days in the first episode and 8-9 the second time. “Her symptoms were almost similar during both episodes. Fever and cough were common,” said one of the batchmates. The resident too has resumed work. A suspected case of reinfection in Sion Hospital of an anaesthesia resident, though, has not been studied in detail, a doctor from the hospital said.
The Mumbai samples were initially processed by Nair Hospital’s microbiology department and BMC’s molecular diagnostics lab in Kasturba Hospital before being sent to the IGIB lab. BMC’s additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said the initial tests showed a genome sequence that is not normally found in SARS-CoV2. “We have now sent the samples to Pune for further genome investigations. We are awaiting further communication,” he said.
Reinfection has grabbed headlines ever since a Hong Kong lab proved it using entire genome sequencing in late August. Random cases have been reported from across the world, including the US and the Netherlands. If reinfection is more common than expected, vaccination norms for Covid-19 would have to be drawn up accordingly.
ICMR head Dr Bhargava said, “One point has been noted. In cases of reinfection, both infections (episodes) have been mild and therefore the reinfection occurs,” he said.

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