Researchers in South Africa have found potentially dangerous coronavirus mutations in a 36-year-old woman with advanced HIV. The woman carried the Covid-19 virus for 216 days and during this period, the virus gathered more than 30 mutations.
“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 the shedding of high titter SARS-CoV-2 in an individual with advanced HIV and antiretroviral treatment failure. an excerpt of the study said.
Through whole-genome sequencing at multiple time-points, we demonstrate the early emergence of the E484K substitution associated with escape from neutralizing antibodies, followed by other escape mutations and the N501Y substitution found in most variants of concern. This provides support to the hypothesis of intra-host evolution as one mechanism for the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants with immune evasion properties,” it added.
According to the researchers, it was not clear if the woman passed on these mutations to others. However, researchers said it’s probably not a coincidence that most of the new variants have emerged from areas like KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, where more than 1 in 4 adults is HIV positive.
If further studies suggest a strong link between mutation and the spread of Covid-19 virus in HIV patients, it would be a cause of worry for India, which has almost 1 million people with untreated HIV infections.
Though there is little evidence to suggest that HIV-infected people are more prone to contracting Covid-19 and developing severe medical consequences, researchers say if more such cases are found, patients with advanced HIV could "become a factory of variants for the whole world".