New Delhi: Researchers in South Africa have reported a potentially dangerous case of a 36 year old HIV positive woman who had carried COVID-19 virus in her body for a staggering 216 days. The virus mutated more than 30 times in a period of six months inside her body.
The case was first reported in a not peer-reviewed medical journal medRxiv on June 3. According to the report, the woman contracted COVID-19 in September 2020. The virus accumulated 13 mutations to the spike protein and 19 other genetic shifts that could change the behaviour of the virus.Some of these mutations have been seen in variants of concern, such as the Alpha variant (first reported in the UK) and Beta variant (first reported in South Africa).
The woman whose identity is not revealed, was first diagnosed with HIV in 2006 and her immune system has been consistently weakening over time.
Though right now there is little research to establish that HIV-infected people are more prone to contracting COVID-19 and developing severe medical consequences but if more such cases are found in HIV positive people then they could become “a factory of variants for the whole world”.
“While most people effectively clear Sars-CoV-2, there are several reports of prolonged infection in immunosuppressed individuals. We present a case of prolonged infection of greater than 6 months with shedding of high titter SARS-CoV-2 in an individual with advanced HIV and antiretroviral treatment failure,” an expert of the study said as quoted by the Hindustan Times.
According to the study’s researchers immunocompromised patients can carry the virus much longer in their bodies.
This is a worrisome trend for both South Africa and India. While there are around 7.8 million people affected by HIV in the African country, India also has almost 1 million people with untreated HIV infections.