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Baffling Experts, Study Reveals HIV+ Woman Carried Covid for 216 Days, Virus Mutated 30 Times in 6 Months

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About 7.8 million people in South Africa are infected with HIV, which causes AIDS, while about 300,000 have TB.

The novel coronavirus has witnessed a number of mutations in the past year. Baffling the experts, a new study revealed that a woman with advanced HIV carried the virus for 216 days.

Published on Thursday, the case report also stated that the virus accumulated more than 30 mutations. The 36-year-old infected woman is a resident of South Africa.

As per a report by the Hindustan Times, the mutations involved 13 to the spike proteins, which helps the virus escape the immune response, and 19 others, which could change its behaviour, as per the study.

“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," an excerpt of the study said.

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This provides support to the hypothesis of intra-host evolution as one mechanism for the emergence of Sars-CoV-2 variants with immune evasion properties, it added. However, the experts are yet to find if the mutations that the woman was carrying were transmissible or not.

A person carrying HIV is 2.75 times more likely to die when infected with the coronavirus than someone with no comorbidities. But in this case study, the woman was immunosuppressed.

Reportedly, the impact of HIV had on mortality was less than expected and well below that of other co-morbidities such as diabetes. However, the risk is higher than tuberculosis, as per an analysis of the South African data done by the Western Cape Department of Health last year showed. About 7.8 million people in South Africa are infected with HIV, which causes AIDS, while about 300,000 have TB.

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first published:June 06, 2021, 14:43 IST