A 36-year-old woman with advanced AIDS carried novel coronavirus for 216 days, during which time the virus accumulated more than 30 mutations, a new study found.
The case report, which has not yet been peer reviewed, was published as a preprint on MedRXIV on Thursday.
The woman is believed to be living in South Africa.
Novel coronavirus aggregates 13 mutations on spikes, along with 19 others that may alter the behavior of the virus.
It is not known whether the genetic mutation she carries is passed on to others, according to the report.
Some of these mutations occur in previous variants, such as:
The E484K mutation is part of the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7, first discovered in the UK).
The N510Y mutation is part of a Beta mutation (B.1.351, first discovered in South Africa).
The researchers say this may be the exception rather than the rule for people living with HIV, as prolonged infection can lead to severe immune impairment.
In fact, the woman in the case study was immunosuppressed.
These findings are important for the control of COVID-19 because these patients may be a source of continued transmission and evolution of the virus.
After the initial treatment, the woman showed only mild symptoms of COVID-19, although she was still carrying the coronavirus.
The scientists discovered the case because she was part of a study of 300 HIV-infected people looking at their immune response to COVID-19.
They also found that four other HIV patients had been carrying the coronavirus for more than a month.