BREAKING! COVID-19 Pandemic Dynamics Is Changing! More Cases Of Co-Infections With Two or More Variants Emerging! First Case Report At ECCMID
The ongoing European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) that is being held online this year is showcasing lots of new worrisome trends that is emerging in the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.eccmid.org/
One presentation from researchers from Belgium warned that as more SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge, the number of cases of co-infections with two or more variants is fast rising.
Though there is no documented evidence that co-infections with two or more SARS-CoV-2 variants leads to increased risk of disease severity and mortality rates, observational clinical reports indicate that they do.
A major problem however is that most hospitals and research entities do not have advanced testing and diagnostic tools and protocols to be even able to detect co-infections properly and as such many such cases could be going undetected.
The first documented case report of a co-infection was present at the ECCMID21 congress. According to the researchers, a 90-year-old woman in Belgium was infected with two different variants of the COVID19 virus at the same time.
The study team said that the unvaccinated woman was admitted to hospital in the Belgian city of Aalst on 3 March of this year following a number of falls and was confirmed as being COVID positive on the same day.
The researchers found that the female patient was simultaneously infected with two different variants of concern (VOCs) of COVID-19.
In the initial stages, 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.
Alarmingly 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 ie 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).
Importantly 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.
Lead author and molecular biologist Dr Anne Vankeerberghen from the OLV Hospital in Aalst, Belgium told Thailand Medical News, “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.”
It was reported that on December 14, 2020, the UK authorities informed WHO that a variant (B.1.1.7; Alpha) had been detected in the south east of England (Kent). Within a few weeks, this variant took over from the viral strains circulating in this region, and has since spread to more than 50 countries, including Belgium. On December 18, 2020, the South African authorities reported that a variant (B.1.351; Beta) had been detected and was spreading rapidly throughout three provinces of South Africa, and has now been identified in at least 40 countries, including Belgium.
Media reported that in January 2021, scientists in Brazil reported that two people had been simultaneously infected with two different strains of the coronavirus–the Brazilian variant known as B.1.1
.28 (E484K) and a novel variant VUI-NP13L, which had previously been discovered in Rio Grande do Sul.
Past studies have reported people infected with different influenza strains.
There are other published studies indicting co-infections with two or more SARS-CoV-2 strains and co-infections or co-infections with other viruses.
Dr Vankeerberghen added, “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.”
She further added, “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.”
However many scientists are warning that as more variants emerge and start circulating and gain slight dominance, the rate of co-infections with two or more variants are going to increase, changing the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic and also leading to the possible emergence of more recombinant strains.
The COVID-19 pandemic is getting far more complex and contrary to what was assumed by 'outdated virologists', the pandemic is going to get far worse and more potent variants are going to keep on emerging. It is a fallacy that the SARS-CoV-2 virus will mutate, weakened, simply die down and disappear. It is going to be with us for a long time, constantly wreaking havoc.
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