【Academic Community-NTU】NTU Hospital Dr. Ping-Ing Lee refutes the rumor of possibility of coronavirus reinfection

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Dr. Ping-Ing Lee

works as Attending Doctor of Department of Pediatric Infection at National Taiwan University Hospital and Associate Professor of College of Medicine at National Taiwan University. He achieved Doctor of Medicine and Ph.D. in Clinical Medicine from National Taiwan University. During the pandemic, he worked as a member of the CECC advisory specialist panel. He specializes in the field of pediatrics, infectious disease, vaccine, pneumonia, hepatitis, and gastroenteritis.

Taiwan has maintained the record of zero confirmed cases for more than 10 days. However, compared to other countries, the pandemic status continues to worsen. In East Europe and South Korea, COVID-19 cluster spreading reoccurred, leading to the rising concern among Taiwanese about the reoccurrence of foreign imported cases. Moreover, people are also concerned about the possibility of getting reinfected by mutated coronavirus. Attending Doctor Ping-Ing Lee from NTU Hospital shared with GASE his professional opinion on the pandemic development and the characteristic of coronavirus. He pointed out that the mutation of a virus will not change its antigenicity, so people should not worry too much about the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutation.


▲▼CECC held daily conference to report the consecutive days of zero confirmed cases to the public. (Credit: Taiwan CDC Youtube)

In Taiwan, there were five cases reported to be tested positive again after recovering. To ensure the patients to fully recovered, Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) only allows patients to end quarantine after being tested negative three times. Some experts suggested that the reason of being tested positive after recovering could be the result of the reinfection of mutant coronavirus. However, Dr. Lee holds an opposite opinion that "all RNA virus will mutate, but it will not change the virus's structure and antigenicity."

As for the reason these patients are tested positive again after recovering, Dr. Lee referred to past research and told us that it is difficult to extract active virus after 7 to 10 days of infection, "but it takes three weeks for nucleic acid to fully expelled from human body. Therefore, the virus being detected after 10 days of infection are actually dead virus bodies." Furthermore, it takes time for the dead virus to leave human body, which could cause inaccuracy of nucleic acid test.

Interestingly, because of the differences of disease pathogens between adults and children, Dr. Lee, who specializes in Pediatric Infection, has a deeper understanding in virus infection compared to physicians in other departments. With his professional expertise in virus infection, Dr. Lee was invited to join CECC's epidemic prevention team at the beginning of the outbreak. He said, "the more seriously infected, the longer it will take for the virus to be expelled from the patient's body, but it does not mean the patient is still contagious."

Dr. Ping-Ing Lee,
▲Dr. Ping-Ing Lee, Attending Doctor of Department of Pediatric Infection at National Taiwan University Hospital.
When talking about the origin of the novel coronavirus, Dr. Lee told us that "it is highly possible to be originated in Wuhan." He continued by saying that "I believed the virus came from animal to human infection at the beginning, but there are signs that make me doubt that SARS-CoV-2 could be made by human. "The signs that Dr. Lee mentioned might refer to the origin of the virus includes the U.S.A. President Trump blaming China for the pandemic, China assigning the army to take charge of P4 laboratory after the outbreak, and Professor from China Agricultural University being sentenced to prison for illegally trading wildlife animals.


▲President Trump suspects that the coronavirus is originated from laboratory in China. (Credit: Facebook/ The White House)
Dr. Lee thought that the SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 could be artificial virus. He criticized medical papers that stated the virus is natural in origin because "using genetic sequencing to determine whether the virus is artificial or not is not logical as it can only analyze whether human genes were inserted in the gene sequence." He further explained that the most effective way to infect human with animal virus is not inserting gene, but "to cultivate animal virus in human cell and stimulate the virus to mutate and adapt to human body environment." As COVID-19 continues to spread, the origin of the virus and the research of it are getting more attention from the academia and the general public.

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