A patient declared positive for COVID-19 remained so for 16 months – until his death – according to a study devoted to the evolution of the virus in immunocompromised patients.

The patient, whose identity has not been released, first tested positive in mid-2020 and was experiencing breathing problems. He remained positive on all tests (about 45) until his death 505 days later, DD Gaia Nebbia, co-author of the study. This is the longest known case of coronavirus infection, according to a statement from the European Congress of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, which is being held in Lisbon from April 23 to 26, where the study will be presented.

The study, conducted by researchers from King’s College and Guy’s and St. Thomas Hospital in London, looked between March 2020 and December 2021 at nine immunocompromised patients with persistent infection with the virus.

All tested positive for at least eight weeks, and two tested positive for over a year. Of the nine patients, four died and four eventually recovered. A last patient was still infected at the start of 2022, 412 days after obtaining a first positive test. “Immunocompromised patients with persistent infection have little chance of survival, and new treatment strategies are urgently needed to end their infection,” said Dr.D Nebbia.

The study aimed to study the mutations of the virus in infected patients for months. In one of the patients, the virus carried 10 mutations that appeared separately in several major variants. “We wanted to characterize the viral evolution in these individuals who could accumulate mutations during their persistent infection. This is one of the hypotheses for the emergence of variants”, explains the researcher. Mutations of the virus were observed in five of the nine patients.

According to Office for National Statistics estimates released on Friday, 38.5 million people had COVID-19 in England between the end of April 2020 and mid-February 2022, or 70% of the population.

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