90-year-old woman dies of two COVID-19 variants

Amarachi Okeh

Researchers in Europe have reported a case of double infection in a 90-year-old Belgian woman.

The woman, who died five days later, was reported to have been infected with the Alpha and Beta variants of COVID-19.

According to a report published by Eurekalert – a medical news service site of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the case has been reported at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.

The report said, “the woman, whose medical history was unremarkable, was admitted to the OLV Hospital in the Belgian city of Aalst after a spate of falls.

“She tested positive for COVID-19 on the same day. She lived alone and received nursing care at home, and had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Initially, there were no signs of respiratory distress and the patient had good oxygen saturation. However, she developed rapidly worsening respiratory symptoms and died five days later.

“When the patient’s respiratory sample was tested for VOCs with PCR, they discovered that she had been infected by two different strains of the virus – one which originated in the UK, known as B.1.1.7 (Alpha), and another that was first detected in South Africa (B.1.351; Beta).

“The presence of both strains was confirmed by PCR on a second respiratory sample, by sequencing of the S-gene, and by whole-genome sequencing.”

A molecular biologist from the OLV Hospital in Aalst, Belgium, Dr. Anne Vankeerberghen said the case of the woman is a first since the outbreak of the VOVID-19 pandemic.

“This is one of the first documented cases of co-infection with two SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.

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

Continuing, Vankeerberghen said, “Whether the co-infection of the two variants of concern played a role in the fast deterioration of the patient is difficult to say.”

“Up to now, there have been no other published cases.

“However, the global occurrence of this phenomenon is probably underestimated due to limited testing for variants of concern and the lack of a simple way to identify co-infections with whole-genome sequencing.

“Since co-infections with variants of concern can only be detected by VOC-analysis of positive samples, we would encourage scientists to perform fast, easy and cheap VOC-analysis by PCR on a large proportion of their positive samples, rather than just whole genome sequencing on a small proportion.

“Independent of the technique used, being alert to co-infections remains crucial.”

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