Persistently Infected Covid-19 Patients: A Potential Source For New Variants

Previously I described the evolution of a viral variant in an immunosuppressed patient in London who was persistently infected with SARS-CoV-2. I also went into detail about the specific changes in the genomes of viruses isolated from the London patient that were identical to those identified in the variants of concern in South Africa and Brazil. Some of the same mutations are found in laboratory experiments that purposefully generate and select for virus strains resistant to antibodies in the blood of patients who have recovered from Covid-19.

 

These observations raise two interesting possibilities. Can it be that persistently infected, immunosuppressed Covid-19 patients are the actual source of variants? Or are the pathways to increased transmission, virulence, and immune evasion in populations independent but parallel to those occurring in immunosuppressed patients and laboratory experiments? Either way, taking a look at the viral variants that arise in infected, immunosuppressed patients can provide us a valuable window into what the future may hold. Here I describe observations of another immunosuppressed, persistently infected patient in Boston.

 

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Originally published on Forbes (February 16, 2021)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.