You Could Get Infected With COVID in This Brand-New Way, Study Says

The coronavirus has started to affect patients in a way it hasn't yet throughout the pandemic.

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has turned the world upside down in ways we never could have imagined. Even now, a year later, the virus is still changing and continuing to confound and challenge experts. Currently, new strains of the virus have been emerging in different pockets of the globe, with some of the most concerning ones being from the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil. They're around 50 percent more transmissible than the current dominant strain and, in some cases, they're affecting the efficacy of treatments and vaccines. Now, researchers have just discovered another new alarming COVID development: patients are getting infected with two different strains of the virus at the same time. Read on to find out more on the new study's findings and what it means for the future of the pandemic, and for more coronavirus concerns, find out why Moderna's Chief Medical Officer Just Gave This Upsetting Update.

Brazilian researchers found two patients infected with two different COVID strains simultaneously.

Doctor taking throat swab test from male patient

Researchers in southern Brazil discovered two COVID cases in which individuals were infected with two different strains of the virus simultaneously, Reuters first reported. The two patients, both in their 30s, were infected with a newly identified variant spreading around Rio de Janeiro called P.2, as well as another variant.

According to their study, which is available for preview but has not yet been published in a journal or peer-reviewed, both patients had mild cases that required no hospitalization, with a headache, cough, and sore throat as their most prominent COVID symptoms. Once officially published, this study will be the first to confirm the possibility of co-infection with multiple strains of COVID, researchers said. And for more coronavirus updates, know that If You Have This in Your Blood, You May Be Safe From COVID, Study Says.

Co-infection can occur when more than one variant is circulating widely.

Shot of a group of young people wearing masks on the street in the cold weather

Fernando Spilki, PhD, the lead researcher for the study and a virologist at Feevale University in Rio Grande do Sul state, told Reuters that these co-infection cases mean multiple COVID variants must be widely circulating in Brazil, seeing as co-infection can only happen when different strains are being transmitted in high quantities, he said. And for more up-to-date COVID news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Co-infection could also potentially occur in the U.S.

A middle-aged woman pulls down her face mask to receive a nasal swab for a COVID-19 test.

The U.S. has recently identified multiple variants from other countries within our borders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. has confirmed COVID cases of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), the South African strain (B.1.351), and variant P.1 from Brazil. While the South African and Brazilian strains were just found in the U.S. over the past week and there are very few known cases of each, there are already at least 315 cases of the U.K. variant here.

These variants are not in high enough quantities yet to cause co-infection, but the CDC warns that the U.K. variant could become the dominant strain of COVID in the U.S. by March—meaning co-infection could be possible in the future. And for more on where exactly the new strains are spreading, find out How Many Cases of the New COVID Strains Are in Your State.

Co-infection could result in more cases and more deaths.

Two doctors wearing protective gear intubate a COVID patient in the ICU.

While the two instances of co-infection reported in Brazil were mild cases, Spilki says that the negative implications of co-infections could cause more large-scale damage. "These co-infections can generate combinations and generate new variants even more quickly than has been happening. It would be another evolutionary pathway for the virus," Spilki explained.

According to the CDC, the new variants that have been emerging recently "seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19." Like Spilki, the health agency warned that "an increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths." And for more ways to stay safe, These 3 Things Could Prevent Almost All COVID Cases, Study Finds.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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