Belgian researchers have warned that a 90-year-old woman died after contracting two different strains of COVID-19, revealing another danger in the fight against the disease.
In the first peer-reviewed analysis of a multi-strain infection, scientists found that the woman was infected with both the alpha variant, which first appeared in the UK, and the beta strain, which was first found in South Africa. Infections in women are likely from different people, according to a report published on Saturday and presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
The woman was admitted to a Belgian hospital in March and tested positive for COVID-19 on the same day. She lived alone, received nursing care at home and was not vaccinated. His respiratory symptoms quickly worsened and he died five days later. When their respiratory samples were tested for variables of concern, both strains were found in two tests. The researchers were unable to determine whether co-infections played a role in its rapid deterioration.
The idea of having multiple infections is not entirely new. In January, Brazilian scientists reported two cases of infection with COVID-19, but the study has not yet been published in a scientific journal. Researchers have also previously found evidence that people have been infected with multiple strains of influenza. Cases suggest that cross-infection may be more common than is currently known.
“The global incidence of this phenomenon is likely to be underestimated due to limited evidence for variants of interest and the lack of an easy way to identify co-infections with whole genome sequencing,” said Anne Vankerbergen, the study’s lead author and a molecular biologist. OLV Hospital in Aalst, Belgium. “Caution for concomitant injuries remains essential.”
These cases also raise questions about how much protection vaccines can provide. With the rapidly spreading delta variant now the dominant strain in many places, including the UK, drugmakers are rushing to test their shots against variants and create new versions that could provide a better defense. Countries are also considering boosting doses this winter to guard against a dip in vaccine responses.