The Alpha and Beta strains of COVID-19, first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa respectively, have spread across the world. While the Delta variant first found in India is increasingly becoming the dominant strain in many countries, Alpha and Beta still remain. Now, a 90-year-old woman in Belgium has died after she contracted an infection from both strains.
According to an AFP report, the woman, who was unvaccinated, was admitted to the OLV Hospital in the Belgian city of Aalst after testing positive for COVID-19. She had been admitted after suffering multiple falls and showed good initial oxygen levels. However, her condition deteriorated rapidly and she died five days after being admitted.
When doctors tested her to see which variant she has, they found traces of both the Alpha and Beta variants .
"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.
Vankeeberghen told AFP they did not know how she was infected. The woman lived alone and received at-home nursing care.
This is not the first instance of someone being infected by two strains at once. In January, Brazilian scientists reported evidence of SARS-CoV-2 co-infection in two cases in Rio.
Such behaviour has been seen in similar viruses—co-infection with multiple influenza strains has been reported in the past. Multiple variants of the same virus can also be detected after they have been generated within the patient’s body itself. In the case of known strains, co-infections can be identified by lineage tests
The mixing of viruses can also lead to new infectious strains. The 2009 H1N1 virus was believed to have originated after the “reassortment” of human, avian and swine influenza viruses in a pig host body—being dubbed a “quadruple reassortment” virus.