A PENSIONER who died after contracting Covid-19 had been infected with two strains of the virus at the same time, researchers in Belgium have revealed.
The 90-year-old woman had contracted both the UK and South African variants at the same time and is believed to be the first documented case of its kind.
She had not been given a vaccine and was admitted to the OLV Hospital in the Belgian city of Alast after a series of falls in March.
The woman, who lived alone and received at home care, tested positive for coronavirus on the same day as her admission to hospital.
Initially her oxygen levels were good, but her condition rapidly went into decline and she died five days after being admitted.
The case, discussed at this year’s European Congress on Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), shows that it is possible to catch two COVID-19 variants simultaneously.
In a statement the society said doctors believe it was the first documented case of its kind and, although rare, similar dual infections are happening.
Her doctors believe that she could have contracted the Alpha and Beta variations of the virus from two different people.
Molecular biologist Anne Vankeerberghen of the OLV hospital in Aalst said: “Both variants were circulating in Belgium.
“It is therefore probable that this woman was infected by two different people with two variants of the virus.
“Unfortunately, we do not know how this infection happened.”
The European Commission, the EU executive, has warned that it expected the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus to become dominant in Europe this summer, citing estimates from the EU disease prevention agency.
Belgium, like much of the European Union, faced vaccine delivery problems early in 2021 and its vaccination programme started slowly, although the EU has now delivered vaccines to cover 70% of the population.
Since the pandemic began there have been 1,093,700 infections and 25,198 coronavirus-related deaths in Belgium.
Of the population in the country it is thought that around 51.5 per cent of the population have been vaccinated so far.
The research into the dual infection has yet to be submitted to a medical journal for publication, but has been presented at the ECCMID.
Vankerrberghen added that there had been “no other published cases” of co-infections, but believes that the “phenomenon is probably underestimated”.
She explained that this is due to limited testing for variants of concern, and called for an increase in the use of fast PCR testing.
The Belgian case comes after two cases of a double Covid infection being reported in Brazil in February, after researchers at Feevale University swabbed 90 infected people in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil.
One of the patients tested positive for two Brazilian strains which evolved separately in different states, known as P.1 and P.2, but no research has currently been published on the infections.
Currently in the UK the Alpha and Beta strains only account for a few cases, with PHE data showing a rise of 680 cases of Alpha and nine of Beta in the week leading up to 7 July.
The Delta variant, which is the most dominant in the UK currently, has had 54,268 new cases in the last seven days.
Virologist and professor of molecular oncology Lawrence Young said: “This study does highlight the need for more studies to determine whether infection with multiple variants of concern affects the clinical course of Covid-19 and whether this in any way compromises the efficacy of vaccination.”
Dr John McCauley, director of the Worldwide Influenza Centre at the Francis Crick Institute, told MailOnline: “Getting one strain up a nostril and another up another nostril doesn’t matter..
“But if they get to the back of the throat and then go into the same cell – then there’s an opportunity for this to happen.”