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Researchers say contracting two variants of COVID-19 is rare, but can happen

By Kyle Barnett
A Palestinian man receives a dose of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine in Saad Mosque in Rafah in Tal al-Sultan town in the southern Gaza Strip, on Monday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/7f3d452fe173ade3f7607106de580962/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A Palestinian man receives a dose of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine in Saad Mosque in Rafah in Tal al-Sultan town in the southern Gaza Strip, on Monday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

July 12 (UPI) -- Researchers are saying the case of a Belgian woman who was found to have been suffering from two variants of COVID-19 at the time of her death is evidence that such a double infection can occur.

The 90-year-old patient died after five days being admitted to a hospital in Aalst, Belgium this April.

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After testing the patient was found to have been suffering from both the Alpha, first detected in England, and Beta, first detected in South Africa, versions of COVID-19.

"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 lead author and molecular biologist Dr. Anne Vankeerberghen from the OLV Hospital in Aalst.

Researchers presented the case at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases on Saturday.

"This is one of the first documented cases of co-infection with two SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern," Vankeerberghen said. "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. Unfortunately, we don't know how she became infected."

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Researchers said the woman lived alone and received nursing care at home. She came to the hospital after suffering several falls. It is unclear how she became infected with COVID-19.

The researchers said the patient at first appeared normal and healthy, but quickly began to show signs of deterioration and died in less than a week.

"Whether the co-infection of the two variants of concern played a role in the fast deterioration of the patient is difficult to say," Vankeerberghen said.

"Up to now, there have been no other published cases. However, the global occurrence of this phenomenon is probably underestimated due to limited testing for variants of concern and the lack of a simple way to identify co-infections with whole genome sequencing."

In January, another paper found two people in Brazil had tested positive for two variants of COIVD-19 at the same time.

Pfizer recently announced it was developing a booster aimed directly at the most deadly variant, Delta.

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