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Dr Christine Carrington

Gail Alexander

Professor of Molecular Genetics and Virology at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr Christine Carrington said some patients who got negative COVID-19 test results and then tested positive again, may have tiny virus particles in their bodies.

However, she said it doesn’t mean they were reinfected or that the virus is infectious.

She was speaking at yesterday’s Ministry of Health briefing on the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s neither reinfection or reactivation. Once we get two negatives on people’s tests, we say they’re clear, but it’s possible very small amounts of genetic material remains in the body once the infection clears. Once the body’s cells die – as they do all the time – virus particles are destroyed. It ‘s not that people are reinfected, that doesn’t appear to be the case right now,” she said.

Carrington added: “ In a recent study, material was taken from people who showed positive again, to see if the virus was infectious and it wasn’t. So cases which were negative, testing positive again are due to leftover junk in the body from the virus. It doesn’t appear to be true reinfection.“

Carrington said that over 100 vaccines are under development and 12 have reached clinical trials.

“One trial at Oxford University is very promising. But even if it’s effective in trials, it will be at least a year before they can be administered to the public,” Carrington added.

Until then, to keep the situation under control, Carrington is advocating continued hand-washing, physical distancing, continued quarantine and mask use.

Carrington also advised that meat should be properly cooked since this kills bacteria and viruses, “But the real risk comes from wild animals which have many viruses in them. When we encroach on them – creating opportunity for viruses to jump from animal to human- or eat or butcher them, there’s always a chance to get infected by viruses they carry,” she said.

Carrington explained bacteria and viruses are different entities. Bacteria divide outside of a body’s cell and is much larger. Viruses which are parasites are infectious agents which enter a cell and replicate inside.

Antibiotics can treat bacteria but only anti-viral drugs target viruses. There are fewer anti-viral drugs available than antibiotics and these drugs target the same machinery the body needs for its cells to replicate. Carrington added it’s difficult to find drugs to allow human cells to work while it also targets a virus.