An unvaccinated 90-year-old Belgian woman died after contracting two different coronavirus variants at the same time, which caused severe symptoms in the patient.
The victim reportedly died in March 2021 after contracting both the Alpha and Beta variants of the COVID-19 virus. The 90-year-old woman allegedly acquired the two variants of the coronavirus from two different people.
During the 2021 European Congress on Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), several experts discussed the case online. The event was held from July 9 to July 12.
Two COVID-19 Variants
However, despite the rarity of the incident, experts said the condition of being infected with more than one variant of the COVID-19 virus is not impossible. A co-infection, which is characterized by at least two different pathogens inhabiting a human body at the same time, has already been conducted by other respiratory viruses.
One study by Stanford University researchers published in April 2020 in JAMA discovered that more than a quarter of people infected with the coronavirus were suffering from other respiratory viruses. The list includes viruses such as rhinoviruses, enteroviruses, respiratory syncytial viruses, and other coronaviruses.
The recent case has raised concerns among officials that multiple variants of the COVID-19 virus are spreading across the region at the same time. This comes despite a single variant possibly being considered as the dominant strain in an area. However, this situation does not mean that other coronavirus variants cannot be widespread in the same area, Forbes reported.
Medical professionals from a hospital in Aalst near Brussels were the ones who treated the victim when she was admitted. They discovered that the 90-year-old woman was not vaccinated against the coronavirus. Belgium experienced delays in its vaccination program in early 2021. When the authorities began the process, it was a slow start though they have distributed treatments to inoculate about 70% of its residents.
Anne Vankeerberghen, a molecular biologist at the OLV Hospital in Aalst, said Belgium was struggling to contain both the Alpha and Beta COVID-19 variants spreading throughout the region. The medical professional said it was completely possible for the deceased woman to contract the two strains from two different people.
Severity of Contracting Two Strains
The European Commission, the EU executive, previously warned the public about the high transmissibility of the new Delta variant and how it could be the most dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus in Europe, officials from the EU disease prevention agency estimated, Reuters reported.
When the 90-year-old patient was initially admitted to the hospital, doctors noted her oxygen levels were stable. However, the patient's condition quickly worsened, which led to her death five days later.
OLV hospital is the one responsible for researching the woman's case, where researchers have not yet submitted their findings to a medical journal for publication. Despite there being no other published studies regarding similar instances, the researchers believe the case to be proof that two COVID-19 variants can infect one person, significantly raising the risks of severe symptoms and death, Business Insider reported.