Explained : When covid affected person carries two different variants at the same time

The woman, who got infected in March this year. She was found to be carrying both the Alpha and Beta variants (first detected in UK and South Africa respectively). However, she died five days after being hospitalised.

A 90-year-old Belgian woman is the first documented case of a person being Infected with two different strain of of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the same time. This woman, survived infection in March this year. She was found to be carrying both the Alpha and Beta variants (first detected in UK and South Africa respectively). However, she died five days after being hospitalized.

Her unique case was discussed at the Annual European Congress on Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, according to a Reuters report.

It’s not surprising…

Such cases of “double infection” is rare. It is a condition where a person is infected with two variants of the virus at the same time. But, it is not at all surprising. Infections from multiple persons within a short period of time is neither impossible, nor unheard of.

“If somebody is exposed to more than one infected person, he or she can get the infection from any or all of them. There is nothing that prevents such an eventuality,” said V S Chauhan, former director of the Delhi-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

“The virus takes some time to multiply inside the body and affect all the cells. Till that happens, some cells can be available to host the virus from another source. The immunity against the pathogen takes some time, a few days, to be built. During that time period, it is entirely possible to get infected from more than one person,” Chauhan said.

Chauhan said such cases of “double infection” were very common among HIV patients.

 But, this is rare . 

The possibility of this type of aspect happening is low. Specifically the contamination does no longer exceeds on at every instance of interaction between people. An infected person does not infect every person. They can only infect who she or he comes in contact with. Therefore, when a person meets more than one infected person for the duration of a brief period of time. He /She gains the probability of getting the virus from all of them. However, this process has a statistically lower chance.

Also, most of the time, it might not be glaring whether a person has got the infection from one person, or a couple of.

“The case of the Belgian woman is only the first one that has been detected. But I am sure many more such occurrences would have happened across the world, and may be happening even now. One cannot know unless you do genome analysis of the virus sample from the infected person. Even then, if the multiple infections are from the same variant of the virus. The differences in the genome sequences are very minor, and can easily get overlooked,”- Shahid Jameel, director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at the Ashoka University.

“In this case, the person was infected with two different variants, and got picked up. In most cases, it would not be that easy unless researchers are actively looking for it. There is far lesser probability of a person getting infected with multiple variants at the same time,” said Jameel.

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