What Happens When People Get Infected With 2 Strains of COVID at Once?

Scientists in Brazil just lately reported that two people today ended up concurrently infected with two various variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that will cause COVID-19.

This co-infection appeared to have no influence on the severity of patients’ illness, and both recovered with out needing to be hospitalized.


Although this is one particular of the handful of this sort of scenarios recorded with SARS-CoV-2 – and the study is nevertheless to be revealed in a scientific journal – experts have noticed infections with a number of strains with other respiratory viruses, this kind of as influenza.

This has lifted thoughts about how these viruses could interact in an infected person, and what it could mean for making new variants.

Viruses are masters of evolution, regularly mutating and building new variants with every single cycle of replication. Selective pressures in the host, these kinds of as our immune reaction, also travel these diversifications.

Most of these mutations will never have a significant result on the virus. But ones that give an edge to the virus – for illustration, by increasing its potential to replicate or evade the immune procedure – are bring about for problem and will need to be carefully monitored.

The event of these mutations is down to the error-inclined replication equipment that viruses use. RNA viruses, these kinds of as influenza and hepatitis C, deliver a somewhat substantial amount of errors each and every time they replicate. This generates a “quasi-species” of the virus inhabitants, relatively like a swarm of viruses, every with similar but non-similar sequences.


Interactions with the host cells and immune method figure out the relative frequencies of the personal variants, and these coexisting variants could have an effect on how the ailment progresses or how properly treatment plans work.

In contrast with other RNA viruses, coronaviruses have reduced mutation premiums. This is because they are geared up with a proofreading mechanism that can appropriate some of the glitches that occur through replication.

Nevertheless, there is evidence of viral genetic variety in sufferers contaminated with SARS-CoV-2.

The detection of numerous variants in a human being could be the consequence of co-an infection by the various variants, or the technology of mutations within the affected person following the preliminary infection.

1 way to discriminate these two eventualities is by comparing the sequences of the variants circulating in the population with those people in the affected individual.

In the Brazilian examine stated higher than, the variants determined corresponded to distinctive lineages that experienced been previously detected in the population, implying co-infection by the two variants.

Mixing it all up

This co-infection has opened issues of SARS-CoV-2 acquiring new mutations even additional rapidly.

This is since coronaviruses can also endure substantial changes in their genetic sequence by a system referred to as recombination. When two viruses infect the very same mobile, they can swap massive parts of their genomes with each and every other and build completely new sequences.


This is a known phenomenon in RNA viruses. New variants of influenza are produced by a related system known as “reassortment”. The genome of influenza virus, contrary to coronavirus, contains eight segments or strands of RNA.

When two viruses infect the exact same cell, these segments combine and match to create viruses with a new mixture of genes. Interestingly, pigs can be contaminated with various strains of influenza viruses, and have been referred to as “mixing vessels” that shuffle them into new strains. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus emerged from a reassortment of a human, avian, and two swine influenza viruses.

With coronaviruses, which only include one RNA strand in every virus particle, recombination can only come about amongst RNA strands derived from one particular or much more viruses in the same mobile.

Evidence of recombination has been found the two in the laboratory and in a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2, suggesting that this could drive the generation of new variants. In point, the capability of SARS-CoV-2 to infect human cells is proposed to have made through recombination of the spike protein involving closely linked animal coronaviruses.


It is significant to note that this requires the two viruses to infect the same mobile. Even if a particular person is contaminated with a number of variants, if they replicate in diverse areas of the body, they will not interact with each and every other.

Without a doubt, this was viewed in individuals, the place distinct quasi-species of coronaviruses had been located in the higher and reduced respiratory tracts, suggesting that viruses in these web-sites ended up not right mixing with just about every other.

The evidence so far does not advise that infection with a lot more than 1 variant qualified prospects to much more significant illness. And though probable, pretty number of circumstances of co-an infection have been documented.

Far more than 90 p.c of the infections in the British isles at the moment are by B117 – the so-referred to as Kent variant. With this kind of a superior prevalence of a person variant in the populace, co-bacterial infections are not likely to occur.

However, checking this landscape lets experts to keep track of the emergence of these new variants of concern and understand and react to any modifications in their transmission or vaccine efficacy.The Conversation

Maitreyi Shivkumar, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology, De Montfort College.

This short article is republished from The Dialogue underneath a Innovative Commons license. Read the authentic write-up.