Published: Jun 07, 2021, 11:50 (IST)
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has spun off multiple mutations that have spiked numbers in second waves across the world, most recently in India. Now, a new study has revealed an unsettling case of Covid-related mutation. Turns out, a woman with HIV carried the virus for 216 days. During this time, the virus mutated at least 30 times, a study awaiting review has revealed.
Published on Thursday, the report referred to an unnamed woman from South Africa. The 36-year-old woman reportedly had Covid for over half a year and was host to numerous mutations, including 13 in the spike protein which is responsible for the virus evading one’s immune response. In addition, 19 other mutations were recorded according to the study.
The study sheds light on how erratic coronavirus could become in hosts that have other long-term ailments which diminish the immune system’s ability to fight the virus.
“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 the 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,” the study noted.
The study added that the mutations reported in the woman were not a result of the treatments being offered to her to fight COVID-19.
“Despite a short clinical illness of moderate severity, SARS-CoV-2 PCR positivity persisted up to 216 days. We demonstrate significant shifts in the virus population over that time, involving multiple mutations at key neutralizing antibody epitopes in the spike RBD and N terminal domain (NTD). Unlike many of the other reported cases, virus evolution was not driven by the receipt of immune-based therapies (convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies)”, the study added.
This implies that the virus can mutate multiple times in a single host and can continue to evade the defence mechanisms of the immune system among those who are diagnosed with other serious diseases. The study makes no mention of the virus being passed on to others. Even then, people with HIV are more likely to experience serious side effects of the virus with a higher fatality rate of over 2.75 times than others.