The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of infections and deaths so far. After recovery, the possibility of reinfection has been reported.
Patients on hemodialysis are at high risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 and developing serious complications. Furthermore, they are a relatively hypo-anergic population, in which the development and duration of the immune and antibody response is still partially unknown. This may play a role in the possible susceptibility to reinfection. To date, only 3 cases of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection from strains prior to the Omicron variant in patients on chronic hemodialysis have been reported in literature. In all of them, the first infection was detected by screening in the absence of symptoms, potentially indicating a poor immune response, and there are no data about the antibody titre developed.
We report a case of recurrence of COVID-19 in 2020 − first infection likely from Wuhan strain; reinfection likely from English variant (Alpha) after 7 months − in a hemodialysis patient with clinical symptoms and pulmonary ultrasound abnormalities. Swabs were negative in the interval between episodes (therefore excluding any persistence of positivity) and the lack of antibody protection after the first infection was documented by the serological test.
The role of the potential lack − or rapid loss − of immune protection following exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in hemodialysis patients needs to be better defined, also in consideration of the anti-COVID vaccination campaign and the arrival of the Omicron variant, which appears to elude the immunity induced by vaccines and by previous variants. For this purpose, prospective multicenter studies are in progress in several European countries.
This case also highlights the need for a careful screening with nasopharyngeal swabs in dialysis rooms, even after patients overcome infection and/or are vaccinated.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2, COVID, hemodialysis, COVID-19 recurrence