A systematic review on the recurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus: frequency, risk factors, and possible explanations

Infect Dis (Lond). 2021 May;53(5):315-324. doi: 10.1080/23744235.2020.1871066. Epub 2021 Jan 28.


Background: Since late 2019, SARS-CoV-2 which leads to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has caused thousands of deaths. There are some pieces of evidence that SARS-CoV-2 genome could be re-detectable in recovered patients.

Methods: We performed a systematic review in the PubMed/Medline database to address the risk of SARS-CoV-2 recurrence. The last update was for 20 November 2020. Among the 1178 initially found articles, 66 met the inclusion criteria and were considered.

Findings: In total, 1128 patients with at least one-time recurrence of SARS-CoV-2 were included. Recurrence rate has been reported between 2.3% and 21.4% in cohort studies, within a mean of 20 (ranged 1-98) days after discharge; younger patients are being affected more. Following the second course of disease, the disease severity decreased or remained unchanged in 97.3% while it increased in 2.6%. Anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG and IgM were positive in 11-95% and 58.8-100%, respectively. Based on the literature, three possibilities include reactivation of previous disease, reinfection with the same virus, and false negative, which have been discussed in details.

Conclusion: There is a relatively notable risk of disease recurrence in previously recovered patients, even those who are immunised against the virus. More studies are required to clarify the underlying cause of this phenomenon.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; PCR; SARS-CoV-2; recurrence; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 Serological Testing
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Recurrence*
  • Risk Factors


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M