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A patient from the UK was ill with COVID-19 for 505 consecutive days, study shows | News

A patient from the UK with a severely weakened immune system has been suffering from COVID-19 for almost a year and a half, the researchers said, stressing the importance of protecting vulnerable people from the coronavirus.

It is impossible to know for sure whether this was the longest-lasting COVID-19 infection because not everyone is screened, especially on a regular basis, as is the case.

But in 505 days, “this certainly seems to be the longest-running claimed infection,” said Dr. Luke Blagon Snell, an infectious disease specialist at the NHS Foundation Guy’s & St.

Their study investigated which mutations occur – and whether variants develop – in people with very long-term infections. It involved nine patients who tested positive for the virus for at least eight weeks. They all had a weakened immune system from organ transplants, HIV, cancer or the treatment of other diseases. No one was identified for privacy reasons.

Repeat tests showed that their infections lingered for an average of 73 days. Two had been suffering from the virus for more than a year. Earlier, researchers said the longest known case, which was confirmed by PCR, lasted 335 days.

Persistent COVID-19 is rare and different from long-term COVID.

“With prolonged COVID, it is usually assumed that the virus has been eliminated from your body, but the symptoms persist,” Snell said. “With persistent infection this continues, active replication of the virus.”

Each time the researchers tested the patients, they analyzed the genetic code of the virus to make sure it was the same strain and that people had not had COVID-19 more than once.

However, genetic sequencing has shown that the virus has changed over time, mutating as it adapts.

Snell said the mutations were similar to those that later appeared in widespread variants, although none of the patients spawned new mutants that became variants of concern. There is also no evidence that they spread the virus to others.

The person with the longest known infection received a positive result in early 2020, was treated with the antiviral drug Remdesiver and died sometime in 2021. Researchers declined to name the cause of death and said the man had several other illnesses.

Five patients survived. Two cured the infection without treatment, two cured it after treatment, and one still has COVID-19. At the time of the last observation earlier this year, the infection of this patient lasted 412 days.

Researchers hope that more treatments will be developed to help people with persistent infections defeat the virus.

“We need to remember that there are people who are more prone to these problems, such as persistent infection and serious illness,” Snell said.

Although persistent infections are rare, experts said there are many people with impaired immune systems who are still at risk for severe COVID-19 and are trying to stay safe after governments have lifted restrictions and began to remove the mask.

And it’s not always easy to find out who they are, said Dr. Wesley Long, a pathologist from the Houston Methodist in Texas who was not involved in the study.

“Disguise in the crowd is a caring thing and a way to protect others,” he said.

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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