Immunocompromised Patients Could Be the Origins of the New SARS-Cov-2 UK Strain

Chronic Covid-19 infection in an immunocompromised patient could be the cause of the appearance of the new coronavirus variant discovered in the United Kingdom, although this has not yet been confirmed.

A new variant of SARS-Cov-2 has recently emerged in the UK. However, all that we know at this point is that the places where the amino acids that make up the genetic material of the coronavirus have changed – or have been changed or lost. Everything else is just hypotheses that researchers are investigating or claims that have no scientific support.

Locations of SARS-CoV-2 Sequence Polymorphisms over Time

SARS-CoV-2 Sequence Polymorphisms. © New England Journal Of Medicine

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At this time it is not known empirically whether this variant alters the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to transmit itself, although mechanistic analyses suggest that it is within the realm of possibility. The same is true for the severity of the disease or the origin of this variant. One hypothesis seems to dominate in the emergence of this new strain of SARS-CoV-2: the chronic infection of an immunosuppressed patient.

Constant mutation

It is in the nature of a virus to mutate. They constantly mutate to a greater or lesser extent during the phases of viral replication, either as a result of errors or due to the pressures of the environment in which they evolve. Therefore, it is not the first variant that appears in the genealogy of SARS-Cov-2. However, it is the first to show such a high number of mutations. How can this phenomenon be explained?

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The hypothesis that seems to dominate at this time in the scientific community is that of chronic infections in immunocompromised patients. In fact, in these types of patients, the aim is to help the immune system by transfusing antibodies using the blood of cured patients. This medical technique, in addition to the abnormally lengthy presence of the virus in the body, could give more opportunity to the virus, to mutate through changes in its RNA.

Several immunocompromised patients identified

Through two publications in Cell and the New England Journal of Medicine, it is known that at least two patients experienced a prolonged infection with SARS-Cov-2 after receiving antibodies through a blood transfusion. Certainly, there were others whose infections were not reported in the scientific literature. The analyses performed in these patients are consistent with the selection hypothesis. In fact, in these two patients, the unusually long infection and the different methods that the antibodies provide to achieve the elimination of the virus may have resulted in more mutations and errors in replication through time.

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References

Persistence and Evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in an Immunocompromised Host

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