Genomic evidence of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection in the Republic of Korea

J Med Virol. 2022 Apr;94(4):1717-1722. doi: 10.1002/jmv.27499. Epub 2021 Dec 9.


As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues, reinfection is likely to become increasingly common. However, confirming COVID-19 reinfection is difficult because it requires whole-genome sequencing of both infections to identify the degrees of genetic differences. Since the first reported case of reinfection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in the Republic of Korea in April 2020, four additional cases were classified as suspected reinfection cases. We performed whole-genome sequencing of viral RNA extracted from swabs obtained at the initial infection and reinfection stages of these four suspected cases. The interval between initial infection and reinfection of all four suspected cases was more than 3 months. All four patients were young (10-29 years), and they displayed mild symptoms or were asymptomatic during the initial infection and reinfection episodes. The analysis of genome sequences combined with the epidemiological results revealed that only two of the four cases were confirmed as reinfection, and both were reinfected with the Epsilon variant. Due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of reinfections with SARS-CoV-2 variants is increasing, as reported in our study. Therefore, continuous monitoring of cases is necessary.

Keywords: Epsilon variant; Republic of Korea; SARS-CoV-2; reinfection; whole genome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • Female
  • Genome, Viral / genetics*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Reinfection / epidemiology
  • Reinfection / virology*
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification


  • RNA, Viral