HIV+ woman had coronavirus for 216 days, mutated 30 times in 6 months: Study
The novel coronavirus, which struck the world last year, has seen a number of mutations, taking the experts by surprise. Now, a new study has revealed that a woman with advanced HIV carried the virus for 216 days.
The case report, still to be reviewed by peers, also says that the virus accumulated more than 30 mutations. The report was published on Thursday.
The 36-year-old woman has not been named. She is living in South Africa.
The mutations involved 13 to the spike proteins, which helps the virus escape the immune response, and 19 others, which could change its behaviour, according to the study.
"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 shedding of high titter SARS-CoV-2 in an individual with advanced HIV and antiretroviral treatment failure. 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," an excerpt of the study said.
"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 further said.
There is, however, no clarity if the mutations present in the woman's body were passed on to others.
A person carrying HIV is 2.75 times more likely to die when infected with the coronavirus than someone with no co-morbidities, because of the immunity issue. But the woman in the case study was immunosuppressed.
Still, the impact HIV had on mortality was less than expected and well below that of other co-morbidities such as diabetes, although it was higher than tuberculosis, an analysis of the South African data done by Western Cape Department of Health last year showed.
About 7.8 million people in South Africa are infected with HIV, which causes AIDS, while about 300,000 have TB.