90-year-old infected with 'two virus variants at once'

90-year-old infected with 'two virus variants at once'

90-year-old infected with two virus variants at once

Alamy Photo

A 90-year-old woman who died after falling ill with COVID-19 was infected with both the Alpha and Beta variants of the coronavirus at the same time, researchers in Belgium said on July 11, adding that the rare phenomenon may be underestimated.

The unvaccinated woman, who lived alone and received at-home nursing care, was admitted to the OLV Hospital in the Belgian city of Aalst after a spate of falls in March and tested positive for COVID-19 the same day.

While her oxygen levels were initially good, her condition deteriorated rapidly and she died five days later.

When medical staff tested for the presence of any variants of concern they found that she was carrying both the Alpha strain, which originated in Britain, and the Beta variant first detected in South Africa.

"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," said molecular biologist Anne Vankeerberghen from the OLV Hospital who led the research.

"Unfortunately, we don’t know how she became infected."

Vankeerberghen said it was difficult to say whether the co-infection played a role in the fast deterioration of the patient.
The research, which has not yet been submitted to a medical journal for publication, is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.

While Vankeerberghen said in a press release that there had been "no other published cases" of similar co-infections, she added that the "phenomenon is probably underestimated".

This is because of limited testing for variants of concern, she said, calling for an increase in the use of fast PCR testing to detect known variant mutations.

In January, scientists in Brazil reported that two people had been simultaneously infected with two different strains of the coronavirus, but the study has yet to be published in a scientific journal.

In comments reacting to the research, Lawrence Young, a virologist and Professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Warwick, said it was not a surprise to find an individual infected with more than one strain.

"This study does highlight the need for more studies to determine whether infection with multiple variants of concern affects the clinical course of COVID-19 and whether this in any way compromises the efficacy of vaccination," he added.

Australia reports first 2021 COVID-19 death

Australia reported its first coronavirus-related death of the year on July 11 and a 2021 record 77 new cases of the virus in the state of New South Wales, which is battling an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the numbers in and around the country's biggest city Sydney, already under a hard lockdown, are expected to rise.

"I'll be shocked if it's less than 100 this time tomorrow, of additional new cases," Berejiklian told a televised briefing.

On July 10 there were 50 cases, the previous 2021 record high. The recent outbreak stands at 566 cases.

Of July 11's cases, 33 were people who had spent time in the community while they were infectious, raising the likelihood that the three-week lockdown of more than 5 million people in Sydney and surroundings will be extended.

"Given where we're at and given the lockdown was supposed to be lifted on Friday, everybody can tell it's highly unlikely at this stage," Berejiklian said.

There are 52 cases in hospital, or about one in 10 people infected in the current outbreak. Fifteen people are in intensive care, five require ventilation. The death, the country's first locally contracted case since December, involved a woman in her 90s.

Australia has fared much better than many other developed countries in keeping its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, seeing just over 31,000 cases since the start of the pandemic and 911 deaths.

The vaccination rollout, however, has been sluggish due to supply constraints and changing medical advice for its mainstay AstraZeneca shots.

Vaccinations are available for now only to people over 40 and groups at risk either due to their health or exposure to the virus at work. Of those hospitalized in Sydney, 11 are under the age of 35 and more than three-quarters of the patients have not had any doses, health authorities said.

EU hits vaccine target

The European Union has hit its target of delivering enough coronavirus vaccine to cover 70 percent of the adult population, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on July 10.    

The 27 EU member state governments are responsible for administering the vaccines - and some are working much faster than others - but von der Leyen stressed: "The EU has kept its word."    

Russia reports 752 coronavirus deaths on July 10, a national record of pandemic-related fatalities over a 24-hour period, as the country battles a third wave.    

Russia has now set seven new pandemic highs for COVID-19 deaths in the last 12 days as it fights a surging outbreak driven by the highly infectious Delta variant and a sluggish vaccination campaign.     

Seoul reported 1,378 new coronavirus cases on July 10, a record high for the third day in a row as South Korea prepares to impose its highest-level curbs in the greater capital area next week.    

The country had previously been held up as a model of how to combat the pandemic, with the public largely following social distancing and other rules, but it was slow to start its vaccine roll-out due to supply shortages.

Russian operatic superstar Anna Netrebko makes a rare appearance in Athens on July 10 in an all-star concert that will mark the reopening of live performances at the Greek National Opera even as authorities sound the alarm over a resurgence in coronavirus infections.    

French actress Lea Seydoux may miss the Cannes film festival - where she is appearing in four movies - after testing positive for COVID-19.    

Rumors have been rife in Cannes for days that a big star had caught the virus. But the festival's director Thierry Fremaux insists there is "no Cannes cluster".        

Japan's northern Fukushima and Hokkaido regions have banned spectators from Olympic competitions in their areas, expanding unprecedented steps to hold the Games mostly behind closed doors due to the pandemic.    

The announcements by their regional governors reversed a decision on July 8 evening by Olympic organizers to save competitions outside the greater Tokyo area for live viewing.      

 London police warn England fans not to gather in large numbers in the British capital for Sunday's Euro 2020 final at Wembley, with nationwide virus restrictions still in force.        

The pandemic has killed at least 4,013,756 people since the virus first emerged in December 2019, according to an AFP compilation of official data.    

The United States is the worst-affected country with 606,476 deaths, followed by Brazil with 530,179, India with 405,939, Mexico with 234,458, and Peru with 193,909.    

The World Health Organization says up to three times more people have died directly or indirectly due to the pandemic than official figures suggest.