A 90-year-old woman who died after contracting the coronavirus was found to be simultaneously infected with both the alpha and beta variants of the virus. “This is one of the first documented cases of co-infection with two worrisome types of SARS-CoV-2,” explains molecular biologist Anne Vankerbergen of OLV Hospital in Aalst and an author of the study.
The unvaccinated woman who lived alone and received home care was admitted to OLV Hospital in March after a series of falls and tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day. Although her oxygen levels were fine at first, her condition rapidly deteriorated and she died five days later.
When testing for worrisome variants, medical staff found that the woman had two strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19. It included the alpha strain, which originated in Great Britain, and the beta variant, which was first discovered in South Africa.
“Both types were circulating in Belgium at the time, so it’s possible that the lady was infected with different viruses from two different people,” Vankeerberghen said. “Unfortunately, we don’t know how she was injured.”
There are no other cases
According to Vankeerberghen, it is difficult to determine whether the co-infection played a role in the patient’s rapid deterioration. The research, which has not yet been submitted for publication in a medical journal, will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).
Vankeerberghen reported in a press release that there were “no other published cases” of similar co-infection, but added that “this phenomenon may have been underestimated,” due in part to limited testing for variables of concern. It therefore calls for greater use of rapid PCR tests to detect known virus mutations.
In January, scientists in Brazil also reported that two people were simultaneously infected with two different strains of coronavirus, but this study has not yet been published in a scientific journal.