Double infections like these rarely come to light, but tests are not always carried out to establish their presence.
The woman died in March and was unvaccinated. She lived at home and received support from home care nurses. Following a series of falls she was hospitalised. She tested positive for Covid. At first oxygen levels were good, but she soon deteriorated and died five days later.
“Both the alpha and beta variants were in circulation in Belgium at the time” says molecular biologist Anne Vankeerberghen. “It’s probable that the woman was infected by two different individuals.”
It’s hard to say whether the double infection played a role in the woman’s demise. No other similar cases have been documented in Belgium. Vankeerberghen says this phenomenon is underestimated because few tests are carried out to detect variants of concern. She calls for rapid PCR tests to be conducted to detect known virus mutations.
In Brazil in January scientists reported two people had been infected with two variants at the same time, while in Portugal a 17-year-old became infected with a second variant while recovering from a first bout of coronavirus and a different variant.