Researchers in South Africa have documented a rare case of a woman who was sick with HIV and at the same time infected with the emerging coronavirus (Covid-19) months ago, and her body witnessed the virus mutating inside it with 32 genetic changes.
According to the British newspaper, “Daily Mail”, the 36-year-old woman tested positive for the Corona virus in September 2020, was given oxygen and was discharged from hospital after nine days, yet her tests continued to be positive for 216 days.
A team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban said the results of the women’s case study provide the first real evidence that patients with untreated HIV can have a weakened immune system that allows the coronavirus to take root and turn into deadly variants that can spread to others.
Currently, the United Nations estimates that 7.5 million adults and children in South Africa are living with HIV.
The results of the study, published on medRxiv.org ahead of print, are the first evidence to suggest that people with HIV can mutate the coronavirus in their bodies multiple times.
The researchers found that the virus underwent 32 genetic changes within the woman’s body, and the mutations were similar to those seen in variants including the alpha variant (from the UK) and the beta variant (from South Africa).
According to the Daily Mail, it is too early to say whether or not a woman is a unique case, but if she is not, it could mean that patients with uncontrolled HIV could spread potentially fatal variants.
These could become a factory of variables for the whole world,” lead author Dr Tulio Diolifera, a geneticist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, told the Los Angeles Times.
He added that expanding HIV testing and treatment would reduce deaths from HIV, reduce HIV transmission, and also reduce the chance of generating new coronavirus variants that could cause other waves of infection.
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