“It is possible to be infected with two different strains of the coronavirus at the same time”, experts say, after the case of an unvaccinated elderly woman who was found to be infected with both the alpha and beta variants of Covid-19.
The 90-year-old woman died in hospital in Belgium in March. Experts presented the case study at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases this weekend, saying it is believed to be the first known case of a double infection and underscores the need to be alert to this possibility.
“The woman, whose medical history was unremarkable”, experts said, “had been admitted to hospital in Aalst, Belgium in early March after a spate of falls. She tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day and then developed rapidly worsening respiratory symptoms. She died five days later. Genome sequencing of samples from the woman confirmed she was infected by the two variants.”
It’s unknown how and when the woman, who lived alone and received nursing care at home, became infected.
“This is one of the first documented cases of co-infection with two SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern,” Dr Anne Vankeerberghen, lead author of the case report and molecular biologist at the OLV Hospital in Aalst, said in a statement.
She said that as both variants were circulating in Belgium at the time, the woman was likely to have been co-infected by two different people.
“Whether the co-infection of the two variants of concern played a role in the fast deterioration of the patient is difficult to say,” Vankeerberghen added. “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.”