Infectious disease experts in South Korea say it appears unlikely the coronavirus could reactivate or infect people more than once.
More than 260 COVID-19 patients in South Korea tested positive for the coronavirus after having recovered, raising alarms, Live Science noted.
But Seoul National University Hospital's Dr. Oh Myoung-don said the method used to detect the coronavirus, called polymerase chain reaction, can't distinguish between genetic material from infectious virus and the "dead" virus fragments that can linger in the body long after a person recovers, The Korea Herald reported.
These tests "are very simple," Carol Shoshkes Reiss, a professor of Biology and Neural Science at New York University, who was not involved in the testing, told Live Science.
"Although somebody can recover and no longer be infectious, they may still have these little fragments of [inactive] viral RNA, which turn out positive on those tests."
To determine if someone has an infectious virus or has been reinfected, a different type of test would be needed, one that is not typically performed, Reiss said, noting lab technicians would have to culture it, or place that virus in a lab dish under ideal conditions and see if it was capable of growing.
Patients in South Korea who retested positive had very little to no ability to spread the virus, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Herald reported.
Still, reinfection at some point is a theoretical possibility. "We don't know what's going to happen a year from now, nobody has that kind of crystal ball," Reiss told Live Science.
"If this virus remains as it is [with] really tiny changes…then it's highly unlikely" that a person would be reinfected next year, Reiss added.
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