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Woman infected with two COVID-19 strains dies, raising questions about co-Infections risks

Coronavirus is mutating fast, with new variants being detected daily as the virus replicates multiple times within one infected individual. At the moment, the Delta variant first detected in India in October 2020 is on its way to assume global dominance due to its rapid spread.

The case of a 90-year-old woman who died after getting infected with two COVID-19 variants of is raising new questions about the rare phenomenon of double infection, as well as about vaccine effectiveness, according to a Bloomberg report which follows a revelation from Belgian researchers.

The research paper, presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases this week, revealed that the woman in question died at the OLV Hospital in the Belgian city of Aalst in March.

The woman, who wasn’t vaccinated, lived alone and was receiving at-home nursing care. She was admitted to hospital with good oxygen levels but died five days as her respiratory symptoms worsened rapidly. Tests found that she was infected with two COVID-19 strains – the alpha variant that was first detected in the UK and the beta strain found in South Africa.

“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 Anne Vankeerberghen, a molecular biologist from the OLV Hospital who was leading the research.

According to the biologist, the global occurrence of this phenomenon of double infection was “probably underestimated” because of “limited testing for variants of concern and the lack of a simple way to identify co-infections with whole genome sequencing”.

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