Woman tests COVID-positive for 505 days, setting a record for most persistent infection—and raising fears of how such cases can be incubators for new variants

An individual within the U.Okay. examined constructive for COVID-19 for a record 505 days—the longest case of COVID ever recorded.

The affected person first examined constructive in early 2020 after presenting signs of COVID-19. Then over the course of 16 months, the affected person was out and in of the hospital—repeatedly taking PCR tests, which all got here again constructive.

An in depth lab evaluation revealed the affected person had the identical, persistent COVID, somewhat than repeated bouts of the illness. And even after being administered antibody therapies and antiviral medicine, the affected person by no means as soon as examined damaging.

The affected person, very like others who’ve persistent COVID, was immunocompromised with underlying medical situations and later died on the hospital in 2021.

The medical doctors from King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, presenting the case at this 12 months’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases in Lisbon, observe the earlier longest recognized persistent COVID-19 case was 335 days.

What this implies

Persistent COVID differs from the well-known long COVID, the place individuals who have been contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 expertise long-lasting signs like shortness of breath and fatigue for weeks or months after the preliminary an infection is gone.

In persistent COVID, an contaminated individual will proceed to copy the identical illness inside their our bodies for far longer than the one to 2 weeks usually skilled after first publicity.

Luke Blagdon Snell, a physician on the Department of Infection at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust who’s presenting the findings, advised Fortune, “What we’re speaking about once we discuss persistence is sustained viral replication throughout the human physique.” He provides, “The virus is regularly replicating your entire time, so it truly is an ongoing an infection.”

While persistent COVID could be very uncommon and prone to have an effect on solely a very small proportion of the inhabitants, it can result in new mutations within the virus as contaminated sufferers incubate and unfold new strains of SARS-CoV-2. Doctors theorize that new variants of COVID-19 can evolve in immunocompromised individuals who have persistent COVID infections.

In the examine, which adopted the affected person who had COVID for 505 days, 9 different sufferers who additionally had persistent COVID have been examined.

What the medical doctors discovered after common sampling and genetic evaluation is that 5 of the sufferers developed not less than one of the mutations seen within the variants of concern and one affected person even developed 10 new mutations that arose individually from variants of concern, like Alpha, Gamma, and Omicron variants. The medical doctors observe the findings counsel new mutations do develop in immunocompromised people with persistent, commonly replicating COVID.

Of the 9 sufferers, who additionally had weakened immune programs as a result of organ transplantation, HIV, most cancers, or medical therapies for different diseases, solely 5 survived. Two cleared the an infection with out therapy, two others cleared the an infection with antibody therapies and antivirals, and one nonetheless has COVID after 412 days of an infection.

Moving ahead, Snell urgently calls for analysis into new therapy methods for clearing persistent COVID.

“We don’t actually know one of the simplest ways for persistent an infection to clear that virus. We want methods to cease that virus replicating.”

This story was initially featured on Fortune.com

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