A 39-year-old Brazilian man who died of COVID-19 last month was suffering from a second bout of the illness, researchers said on Tuesday, making it the country’s first confirmed death from coronavirus reinfection. Both episodes involved variants with the E484K mutation.
The man, from Campo Bom in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, had a history of chronic cardiovascular disease and diabetes. He first tested positive on November 30 but details about his symptoms – if any – are unclear. Genomic sequencing revealed the P.1 variant.
The patient fell ill a second time about 3 months later and tested positive on March 11, according to researchers at Feevale University. His initial symptoms were fatigue and respiratory distress, but his condition worsened and he was transferred to the ICU, where he was intubated and died on March 19.
Genomic sequencing of the sample from the second episode revealed the P.2 variant, which is classified as a Variant of Interest.
“It is noticeable that P.1 and P.2 variants share at the typical E484K mutation in the RBD site, which has been related to antibody escape in patients previously immunized by non-mutated lineages,” the researchers said in a preprint of their study.
This is only the third time that someone has died from a confirmed case of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, and the first time in Brazil. At least 38 other deaths have been reported among suspected cases worldwide, but the true figure is believed to be higher as research into reinfection remains limited.
Researchers around the world have so far confirmed 72 cases of reinfection, including 3 deaths and 17 cases in which the outcome has not been publicly reported. There are also more than 34,000 suspected cases, including the 38 people who died. In most cases the outcome is unknown.