Background: Asymptomatic or symptomatic infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can be followed by reinfection. The protection conferred by prior infection among coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients is unclear. We assessed the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection and the protection effect of previous infection against reinfection.
Methods: We searched PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane, Scopus, Web of Science, and ClinicalTrials.gov for publications up until the end date of May 1, 2021. The reinfection rate of recovered patients and the protection against reinfection were analyzed using meta-analysis.
Results: Overall, 19 studies of 1096 reinfection patients were included. The pooled reinfection rate was 0.65% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.39-0.98%). The symptomatic reinfection rate was a bit lower (0.37% [95% CI 0.11-0.78%], I2 = 99%). The reinfection rate was much higher in high-risk populations (1.59% [95% CI 0.30-3.88%], I2 = 90%). The protection against reinfection and symptomatic reinfection was similar (87.02% [95% CI 83.22-89.96%] and 87.17% [95% CI 83.09-90.26%], respectively).
Conclusions: The rate of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 is relatively low. The protection against SARS-CoV-2 after natural infection is comparable to that estimated for vaccine efficacy. These data may help guide public health measures and vaccination strategies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. High-quality clinical studies are needed to establish the relevant risk factors in recovered patients.
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