The Effect of Varying Interval Definitions on the Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Reinfections: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Cohort Study

Diagnostics (Basel). 2022 Mar 15;12(3):719. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics12030719.


Background: We assessed the SARS-CoV-2 reinfection rate in a large patient cohort, and evaluated the effect of varying time intervals between two positive tests on assumed reinfection rates using viral load data.

Methods: All positive SARS-CoV-2 samples collected between 1 March 2020 and 1 August 2021 from a laboratory in the region Kennemerland, the Netherlands, were included. The reinfection rate was analyzed using different time intervals between two positive tests varying between 2 and 16 weeks. SARS-CoV-2 PCR crossing point (Cp) values were used to estimate viral loads.

Results: In total, 679,513 samples were analyzed, of which 53,366 tests (7.9%) were SARS-CoV-2 positive. The number of reinfections varied between 260 (0.52%) for an interval of 2 weeks, 89 (0.19%) for 4 weeks, 52 (0.11%) for 8 weeks, and 37 (0.09%) for a minimum interval of 16 weeks between positive tests. The median Cp-value (IQR) in the second positive samples decreased when a longer interval was chosen, but stabilized from week 8 onwards.

Conclusions: Although the calculated reinfection prevalence was relatively low (0.11% for the 8-week time interval), choosing a different minimum interval between two positive tests resulted in major differences in reinfection rates. As reinfection Cp-values stabilized after 8 weeks, we hypothesize this interval to best reflect novel infection rather than persistent shedding.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cp-value; SARS-CoV-2; re-infection.