Man dies after 613-day COVID-19 infection that underwent 50 mutations

Through the 613 days of infection, the virus evolved into a "novel immune-evasive variant" that had mutated over 50 times.
Scientists' illustration of the coronavirus.
Posted at 6:19 PM, Apr 22, 2024

A new report by Dutch scientists revealed a very peculiar case: On Feb. 2022, a 72-year-old man with a compromised immune system was admitted to Amsterdam University Medical Center with a COVID-19 infection. The virus in his body proceeded to evolve over the course of 613 days, leading to a highly mutated variant that ultimately killed him.

According to the study, the man, whose identity was not disclosed, suffered from a blood disorder. Despite receiving multiple doses of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, his compromised immune system made him unable to generate a detectable antibody response, allowing the virus to continue to evolve into a "novel immune-evasive variant" that had mutated over 50 times. The man died from his underlying blood disorder after fighting COVID for nearly two years, the scientists from the University of Amsterdam’s Centre for Experimental and Molecular Medicine stated. 

“This case underscores the risk of persistent SARS-CoV-2 infections in immunocompromised individuals as unique SARS-CoV-2 viral variants may emerge due to extensive intra-host evolution," the study authors stated in a press release. "We emphasize the importance of continuing genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 evolution in immunocompromised individuals with persistent infections given the potential public health threat of possibly introducing viral escape variants into the community.”

While the study notes there have been cases in which people have tested positive for COVID-19 for hundreds of days, this case is the longest reported by far. Furthermore, researchers say the rare variant found in this patient hasn't been reported in anyone else, but emphasize the need for more study to protect the public from potential new variants.

The researchers say they plan to further present this study at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Global Congress in Barcelona, Spain, starting this weekend.   

White House expands its global pandemic prevention efforts
A lab technician performs COVID-19 testing

White House expands its global pandemic prevention efforts

The U.S. will work with other countries to improve infectious disease testing and surveillance before outbreaks can threaten to become pandemics.