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Coronavirus mutates over 30 times in HIV positive woman with COVID-19 infection

After the woman contracted the COVID-19 infection in September last year, the virus gathered 13 mutations to spike protein and 19 other genetic shifts that might change the behaviour of the virus

The woman had tested COVID-19 positive for the first time in September 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Representational) The woman had tested COVID-19 positive for the first time in September 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Representational)

Scientists in South Africa have detected potentially dangerous coronavirus mutations in a woman with advanced HIV.

The 36-year-old woman carried the COVID-19 virus for 216 days and during the said period, the virus collected over 30 mutations.

The case report, published as a preprint in the medical journal medRxiv on June 3, stated that the woman was diagnosed with HIV back in 2006 and her immune system has weakened steadily over time.

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After she contracted the COVID-19 infection in September last year, the virus gathered 13 mutations to spike protein and 19 other genetic shifts that might change the behaviour of the virus.

Some of these alterations have been seen in variants of concern like E484K mutation, which is part of the Alpha variant B.1.1.7 (first detected in the UK), and N510Y mutation, which is part of the Beta variant B.1.351 (First found in South Africa).

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Meanwhile, scientists are unclear if the woman passed on these mutations to others. However, they added that it is possibly not a happenstance that most of the new variants have surfaced from areas such as KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, where over 1 in 4 adults is HIV positive.

Although there is limited evidence to indicate that HIV-infected people are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and developing grave medical consequences, researchers are of the opinion that if more such cases come to light, patients with advanced HIV could "become a factory of variants for the whole world."

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