Researchers find COVID-19 case that involved two variants at the same time

A new study reports the discovery of an elderly woman in Belgium who had been infected with two SARS-CoV-2 variants at the same time. The patient, who sadly died from the virus only days after being admitted to the hospital, tested positive for both the "UK" and "South African" variants of COVID-19, making it an exceedingly rare case.

The unique COVID-19 case will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases; it comes from researchers in Belgium who identified the dual-variant infection in a 90-year-old woman. According to the report, this patient died five days into her hospitalization due to the sudden worsening of her symptoms.

The hospitalization occurred at Belgium's OLV Hospital in early March. Samples taken from the patient were soon tested using PCR, which is when the doctors found that she'd been infected by both the B.1.351 Beta and B.1.1.7 Alpha variants. A second sample was tested to confirm the findings.

Talking about the unusual case was the study's lead author Dr. Anne Vankeerberghen, who said:

This is one of the first documented cases of co-infection with two SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. Both these variants were circulating in Belgium at the time, so it is likely that the lady was co-infected with different viruses from two different people. Unfortunately, we don't know how she became infected.

This isn't the first case involving dual-variant infections. Earlier this year, two similar cases were reported in Brazil, those involving a "novel variant" called VUI-NP13L, as well as the more common "Brazilian" variant B.1.1.28. This is, however, the first published case and the researchers aren't yet able to say whether the dual infection may have contributed to the patient's rapid demise.