london – British researchers believe they have documented the longest known COVID-19 infection in a patient who tested positive for a total of 505 days before his death.
The previous record for frequent infections – rather than repeated bouts of COVID – is thought to be 335 days, said the team from King’s College London and Guy and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
Consultant virologist Gaia Nebia, one of the study’s co-authors, said the unidentified man was diagnosed in mid-2020 with respiratory symptoms that later improved.
But the patient tested positive about 45 times before being admitted to the hospital till his death.
Nebia said frequent infections with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – have been described in patients with weakened immune systems.
He and his team studied how the virus from nine COVID-19 patients in London changed over time, concluding that new variants may occur in immunocompromised patients.
“This is one of the hypotheses for the emergence of the variant,” Nebia said.
“Routine sampling and genetic analysis of the virus showed that five out of nine patients carried at least one mutation in the forms of concern.
“Some individuals developed multiple mutations associated with forms of anxiety, such as alpha, delta and omicron variants.
“However, none in our work developed new forms that became widespread forms of anxiety.”
Of the nine immunocompromised patients who tested positive for at least eight weeks, the infection persisted for an average of 73 days.
But two patients had persistent infections for more than a year.
All patients had weakened immune systems due to organ transplants, HIV, cancer, or other medical treatments. His studies took place between March 2020 and December last year.
Five of the nine survived. Two of the five recovered without treatment and the other two recovered after antibody and antiviral therapy.
A fifth person was still infected at his last follow-up examination in early 2022, even after treatment, and had COVID-19 for 412 days.
Should they test positive at their next appointment, they would exceed the 505-day record, the researchers said.
Nebia said the situation demonstrated an urgent need for new treatments to help immunocompromised patients recover.
The findings will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon, which was due to begin on Saturday.
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