Doctors warn of severe COVID-19 relapses for immuno-compromised patients

Reporter: Veronica Marshall Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
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Credit: WINK News

There has already been some debate over whether coronavirus can reactivate once you’ve already beaten it. Now, doctors are warning about severe relapses of COVID-19 for some at-risk groups.

Researchers say people with low white blood cell counts are at higher risk for having the virus reactivate.

Tony Troiano was able to survive COVID-19 while fighting cancer. “When you get really sick and get this kind of support it’s unbelievable,” Troiano said.

Troiano is one of the lucky ones. After staying in the ICU for four weeks, the 64-year-old beat COVID-19 while also battling Leukemia at the same time.

But his fight may be over.

Dr. Hector Preti is an Oncologist with Lee Health. “A common topic we encounter is called viral reactivation syndrome,” Dr. Preti.

Preti says that with cancers like Leukemia and Lymphoma, certain viruses can reactivate. New research supports the conclusion that SARS-CoV-2 is one of those viruses.

The study finds that the virus is reactivated in a 56-year-old Leukemia patient four months after she beat it the first time. After comparing samples from her first and second infection, researchers say, the virus used its downtime to evolve.

Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The reason I say it’s not true reactivation is that this virus does not have a latent phase, it can’t go dormant, where it’s just there and not replicating or not reproducing itself,” Dr. Kuritzkes.

Regardless of whether this case is a real reactivation or not, in the study, the Leukemia patient survived her second bout with COVID-19.

This means fighters like Troiano can too.

“Such a blessing to have a family like this makes me feel good and work harder and get better,” said Troiano.

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