A 90-year-old woman who died of Covid last March after contracting both the Alpha variant and the Beta variant (South African) at the same time, both already circulating in the country at the time. The first case of combined contagion ever described in the literature was announced during the press conference of the European Congress on Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. The woman had not yet been vaccinated: Belgium, like much of the European Union, had to face vaccine delivery problems in early 2021 and its immunization program started slowly.
The old woman was treated in a hospital near Brussels but died five days after admission although her oxygen levels were initially stable. It’s unclear how she got infected, but doctors assume she may have caught the infection from two different people.
The molecular biologist Anne Vankeerberghen who is conducting the study said it was difficult to establish whether coinfection played a role in the patient’s rapid deterioration. Both variants were circulating in Belgium at the time so the woman was likely co-infected with different viruses by two different people, she told the Guardian. While there have been no other published cases of similar co-infections, this probably underestimated phenomenon he said.
In January, Brazilian scientists had already reported that two people were simultaneously infected with two different strains of the coronavirus, but the study has yet to be published in a scientific journal.
According to micro biologists, the union of two strains could in theory give rise to super-variants, however this is an extremely rare phenomenon.