The elderly woman, who has not yet received any dose of the vaccine, was admitted to a hospital in the Belgian city of Aalst, in March, after suffering a series of falls. On the same day, the 90-year-old woman tested positive for Covid-19 and would eventually die five days later.
Investigators later discovered that the elderly woman was infected with alpha (first discovered in the UK) and beta (originated in South Africa) variants at the same time.
“Both variants were circulating in Belgium at the time, so it is likely that you were infected with different viruses by two different people.“Unfortunately, we don’t know how she became infected,” molecular biologist Anne Vankerbergen, of OLVA Hospital, told AFP, who led the investigation.
Vankerbergen further explained that it is difficult to determine whether the co-infection contributed to the rapid deterioration of the health of the elderly woman.
According to Agence France-Presse, the research in this case, which amazes experts, has not yet been published in a specialized scientific journal, but is presented at a European conference on microbiology and infectious diseases.
The researchers believe the case of the Belgian elderly is the first to be documented, but although it is rare, similar cases of double infection have been reported in other countries.
In January 2021, Brazilian scientists reported Two cases of simultaneous infection with two strains of SARS-CoV-2, one of which is known as a gamma variable, was first discovered in Brazil.
Vankeerberghen even considers co-infections a “underestimated phenomenon”, as tests to detect known and worrisome variants are limited.
Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, UK, says he is not surprised to discover a case of infection with two variants at the same time, and argues that Further studies are needed “to determine whether multiple variants influence the clinical course of Covid-19 and whether they undermine the efficacy of vaccination in any way”.
Currently, the delta variant, first discovered from India, is the most concerning, estimated to be 60 percent more transmissible. Scientists remain confident in the effectiveness of vaccines against this strain, but Pfizer, for example, is already studying the possibility of giving a third dose of the vaccine to enhance protection against this strain.