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variant clues HIV-positive man who had Covid-19 infection for more than seven months could be key to mutations

It comes as Ireland and other European countries face another wave triggered by the Delta variant

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Tests showed the HIV-positive man had Covid-19 for 216 days

Tests showed the HIV-positive man had Covid-19 for 216 days

Tests showed the HIV-positive man had Covid-19 for 216 days

A man who had Covid-19 infection for more than seven months may provide clues to how the coronavirus mutates and new variants emerge, a conference has been told.

It comes as Ireland and other European countries face another wave triggered by the Delta variant.

The presentation to the European Congress on Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases highlighted growing evidence that the Beta variant, which originated in South Africa, is leading to more severe disease in people living with HIV. The failure to clear infection in a patient with advanced HIV creates conditions which may lead to more dangerous mutations.

Dr Alex Sigal, of the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa, presented the case of a man with advanced HIV who, despite having only mild Covid-19 illness, tested positive for coronavirus for 216 days.

Genomic sequencing revealed shifts in his viral population over time, involving multiple mutations at key sites, including the spike protein domain which the virus uses to enter human cells.

The evolved virus was tested and shown to have variant-like properties in terms of its ability to escape antibodies which could potentially make it more resistant to Covid-19 vaccines.

The conference was told that control of HIV with antiretroviral therapy could be the key to preventing such evolution of the virus in patients with advanced HIV.

"Evolved mutations lead to escape from neutralisation, which means antibodies made as a result of previous natural infection or vaccination would work less well to protect you from a new infection," Dr Sigal said.

He made the presentation at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin.

He said the coronavirus may "mutate extensively within one person if infection persists".

The researchers said these findings underline the need to make sure everyone living with HIV has appropriate treatment.

"If not, it is possible that potentially more potent variants than the ones circulating now could emerge from people whose immune systems are severely damaged."

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