90-year-old infected with 'two Covid-19 variants at once'; rare phenomenon underestimated

90-year-old infected with ‘two Covid-19 variants at once’; rare phenomenon underestimated

Medical staff who tested the presence of the Covid-19 variants discovered that the woman was infected with the Alpha variant originating in Britain and the Beta variant from South Africa.

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Paris (AFP) — Researchers in Belgium announced that a 90-year-old woman who died due to Covid-19 complications was infected with the Alpha and Beta variants of the virus at the same time.

The rare phenomenon of double variant infection may be underestimated, noted the researchers on Sunday (Jul 11).

The woman, who was unvaccinated and lived alone with at-home nursing care, was hospitalised in Mar 2021 after a spate of falls. She also tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day.

Although her oxygen levels were initially good, reports noted that her condition deteriorated rapidly. The woman passed away five days later.

Medical staff who tested the presence of the Covid-19 variants discovered that the woman was infected with the Alpha variant originating in Britain and the Beta variant from South Africa.

“Both these variants were circulating in Belgium at the time, so it is likely that the lady was co-infected with different viruses from two different people,” said molecular biologist Anne Vankeerberghen who led the research.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know how she became infected.”

Ms Vankeerberghen noted it was difficult to confirm if the co-infection played a role in the patient’s quick deterioration.

Their research is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, although it has not yet been submitted to a medical journal for publication.

There had been “no other published cases” of similar instances; however, the “phenomenon is probably underestimated,” said Ms Vankeerberghen.

She called for an increase in PCR testing to detect known Covid-19 variants to study the phenomenon of co-infection further.

Scientists in Brazil reported earlier this year that two people were simultaneously infected with two different strains of Covid-19. The findings have not yet been published in a scientific journal.

“This study does highlight the need for more studies to determine whether infection with multiple variants of concern affects the clinical course of Covid-19 and whether this in any way compromises the efficacy of vaccination,” said virologist and Professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Warwick Lawrence Young.

Mr Young added it was not a surprise to find a patient infected with more than one strain. /TISG

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