AIDS Patient Got More Than Thirty SARS-CoV-2 Mutations Within Her Body

AIDS Patient Got More Than Thirty SARS-CoV-2 Mutations Within Her Body

by Saisruthi Sankaranarayanan on Jun 8 2021 3:56 PM
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  • The patient was diagnosed with AIDS back in 2006
  • She contracted COVID-19 in September 2020 and tested positive for about 216 days
  • During the period of infection, SARS-CoV-2 underwent mutations more than thirty times, two of which correlate with variants of concern
An HIV-positive woman in South Africa who is immunosuppressed contracted COVID-19 in September 2020. Researchers say that the SARS-CoV-2 virus underwent 32 mutations in her body.
Tulio de Oliveira, a geneticist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban and the study's author, told the Times: "If more such cases are found, it raises the prospect that HIV infection could be a source of new variants simply because the patients could carry the virus for longer."

What is Immunosuppression?

Immunosuppression is the suppression of the immune response in the human body either partially or entirely. Some diseases can make people immunosuppressed, which in turn predisposes the body to infections. Immunosuppression can also be induced artificially by medications to help transplanted organs survive.

The available evidence shows that immunosuppressed people could carry SARS-CoV-2 for an extended period. There have been only two study reports regarding these kinds of cases: one is about an AIDS patient and another one about a person who underwent kidney transplantation.

Highlights of the Case

The 36-year-old woman was diagnosed with AIDS back in 2006. She began to observe weakness and gradually became immunosuppressed. She tested positive for COVID-19 in September 2020 and carried SARS-CoV-2 for 216 days within her.

During that period, the virus underwent more than 30 mutations in which 13 occurred to the spike protein, and 19 others caused genetic shifts in the viral genome.

Two of the viral mutations that occurred in her body seem to correlate with the mutations that created 'variants of concern.'
  • E484K mutation, which is part of the Alpha variant B.1.1.7 (first seen in the UK)
  • N510Y mutation, which is part of the Beta variant B.1.351 (first seen in South Africa)
It is still not clear whether the woman passed on these mutated strains to others.

Dr. Juan Ambrosini, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Barcelona, commented, "But it is probably the exception rather than the rule for people living for HIV because prolonged infection requires severe immunocompromise." In this case, the woman in the case study was immunosuppressed.

The study report of this exclusive COVID-19 case was published as a preprint in the medical journal medRxiv.

  1. Persistent SARS-CoV-2 infection and intra-host evolution in association with advanced HIV infection - (