A 90-year-old Belgian woman who died after becoming ill with Covid-19 was infected with both the Alpha and Beta variants of coronavirus at the same time, researchers say.
The unvaccinated woman was admitted to the OLV hospital in the town of Aalst after a fall in March and tested positive for Covid-19 the same day.
While her oxygen levels were initially good, her condition deteriorated rapidly and she died five days later.
It turned out that she carried both the Alpha strain and the Beta variant.
“Both of 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 do not know how she became infected.”
Vankeerberghen said it was difficult to say whether the coinfection played a role in the patient’s rapid deterioration.
The research, which has not yet been sent to a medical journal for publication, will be presented at a European congress on microbiology and infectious diseases.
While Vankeerberghen said there had been no “other published cases” of similar co-infections, she added that “the phenomenon is probably underestimated”.
This was due to limited testing for variants of concern, she said, and called for an increased use of rapid PCR testing to detect known variants.
In January, researchers in Brazil reported that two people had been infected with two different strains of coronavirus at the same time, but the study has not yet been published in a scientific journal.
Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said it was not a surprise to find someone who was infected with more than one strain.
“This study highlights the need for more studies to determine whether infection with multiple variants of concern affects the clinical course of Covid-19 and whether this in any way compromises the efficacy of vaccination,” he said.