A cancer survivor was unfortunately infected with COVID-19 and managed to break a record for the longest case!
The woman tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was hospitalized back in the spring of 2020 and she remained infected for no less than 335 days, Science Magazine first reported.
Her state was continuously monitored by repeated tests that kept coming back positive!
The symptoms continued even after she was discharged from the hospital and they were so bad sometimes she needed supplemental oxygen even at home.
Months after the initial infection, the virus levels in her body were only barely detectable even though the tests were still positive for COVID-19.
However, a year later, in March of this year, the virus levels spiked once again.
Scientists compared the genomes in samples collected when she was infected the first time, with the second infection spike and realized that it was the same virus!
What this means is that the 47 year old patient was not reinfected, but instead, continued to suffer from the same virus for almost a year without completely healing.
The study was posted as a preprint on medRxiv and is yet to get peer-reviewed.
As for why COVID-19 might have remained in her body for so long, it is likely that was the case because her immune system was already extremely compromised because of her lymphoma treatment.
The patient had previously been diagnosed with cancer and recovered after undergoing CAR T-cell therapy treatment.
Of course, this also meant her body had been depleted of most of its B cells, which are used by the immune system to create antibodies.
This case is not unique however, although it seems to be the longest registered as of now.
Another report revealed that a patient with leukemia from Washington remained infected with the novel coronavirus for no less than 70 days, which is still much longer than the usual shedding period of about two weeks.
Molecular virologist at the NIH and the senior author of this study, Elodie Ghedin, told Science Magazine that such cases of longer infections in people with weak immune systems “give you a window on how the virus explores the genetic space.”
Researchers can observe how the virus evolves over time by analyzing samples from such patients.
In the virus sample taken from the lymphoma survivor, the researchers were able to find two separate genetic deletions, which is a mutation erasing parts of the genome.
The first was in some of the genes that code the spike protein for the virus, which helps grab onto healthy cells, while the second was a massive deletion outside of the spike protein.
This second area is actually still largely unknown as there hasn’t been much study done into it until now.
Science Magazine mentions that other researchers had also found a very similar deletion in that same area in cases of patients with chronic infections.
While chronic infections are rare, they are highly dangerous and can lead to the creation of other variants due to the fact that the virus gets a lot more space and time to evolve within a single body before spreading the new version to another.
As for the lymphoma survivor who struggled with COVID for 335 days, she was hospitalized again when the virus spiked for the second time and managed to finally recover completely based on the many negative COVID tests that she has taken since back in April.