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An unnamed Connecticut resident has been infected with COVID-19 for more than a year, and scientists even found that the virus has mutated multiple times in them.
Yale University researchers discovered the patient, who is in his 60s and suffering from a type of lymphoma, after they traced back cases of a suspected extinct variant to them.
After further inspection, they found that the person had three different sublines of the virus in their bloodstream — indicating they were a vector for mutation.
This is the longest Covid infection discovered by health experts, and adds to the growing evidence that the virus mutates in immunocompromised individuals before continuing to spread to others.
An unnamed person in his 60s who also suffers from lymphoma has had an active Covid infection for more than 470 days. They also have three different lines of the virus circulating through their blood (file photo)
The case study is currently available in pre-print on MedRxivand awaits peer review before being published.
Surveillance of Covid strains in Connecticut, for which Yale is based, found that a B.1,517 strain that hadn’t been seen around the world for some time last year was circulating in the area.
The infections were all traced to one patient living in an undisclosed part of the state.
Further investigation revealed that they were suffering from ‘chronic Covid’ and had tested positive for the virus for at least 471 days. At the time of publication Saturday, the patient still tested positive for the virus.
They also found that the virus rapidly mutated in their bodies at a rate that is unusual for a typical infection.
It mutated twice as fast and as a result, three completely separate, different genotypes of the virus were formed.
“This chronic infection resulted in accelerated evolution and divergence of SARS-CoV-2, a mechanism that may contribute to the emergence of genetically diverse SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron, Delta and Alpha,” researchers wrote.
The case is one of the first – and longest – discovered infections of ‘chronic Covid’.
While ‘long Covid’ is a phenomenon that experts have long been aware of, that condition occurs when a person still feels symptoms of the virus even after their infection has cleared.
However, this infection is different as the unnamed individual has an active Covid case and continues to test positive for the virus for a long time.
It also adds to the growing literature indicating that the virus takes advantage of especially immunocompromised people to mutate.
Last year doctors in the UK found that a man who also suffered from lymphoma had the virus mutate quickly while he is in his body. He would later succumb to his illness.
This finding opened up the theory that the virus could create “escape mutations” that allow it to evade antibodies and stay in the genetic code.
Since then, there have been other scattered reports of people with serious comorbidities, such as cancer, experiencing rapid mutations of the virus.
However, it is impossible to know how many people carry a rapidly mutating virus, and there is little experts can do to prevent Covid from mutating frequently once it has found a suitable host.
Rapid mutation of the virus is a danger, as every time a drastically new version of Covid emerges, it overwhelms the world and leaves officials scrambling to tackle a new threat.
When the Indian-formed Delta variant erupted around the world in the spring and summer of 2021, it triggered one of the deadliest outbreaks of the virus to date.
Late last year, the Omicron variant tore across the Earth, causing virtually every country it touched to suffer record levels, while also wiping out much of the protection Americans had against immunity.