A 90-year-old Belgian woman died after she became infected with two different strains of COVID-19 at the same time, scientists revealed Sunday.
Her case was the first documented of a patient infected with two strains, although the “phenomenon is probably underestimated,” one of the lead researchers said, according to Agence France-Presse.
The patient, who was not vaccinated, became sick in March with the Alpha and Beta strains of the virus, which were first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively, according to scientists at the European Congress on Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.
The woman was hospitalized in Aalst near Brussels after experiencing some falls, and tests determined that she had contracted the two variants, likely from different people, the BBC reported.
“Both variants were circulating [in March] in Belgium,” said lead researcher and molecular biologist Anne Vankeerberghen.
“It is therefore probable that this woman was infected by two different people with two variants of the virus. Unfortunately, we do not know how this infection happened,” the scientist said.
The patient’s condition continued to deteriorate, and she died five days after her diagnosis, German outlet DW News reported.
Vankeerberghen said such double infection may not be all that rare.
But she said it is still unclear if the phenomenon played a role in the patient’s condition rapidly worsening.
Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick who was not involved in the research, said the scientists’ findings weren’t surprising, BBC reported.
“Detecting two dominant variants of concern in a single person is not a surprise — these could have been passed on by a single infected individual or by contact with multiple infected people,” he said.
With Post Wires