The patient had a persistent COVID-19 infection lasting 505 days, over 16 months, exceeding the previous record of 335 days.
The patient from the United Kingdom contracted the disease in early 2020, and their weakened immune system and underlying conditions prevented them from entirely clearing the virus from their body. They were in and out of hospital repeatedly following their initial infection and tested positive every time, with genetic sequencing showing the infection was the same and not the result of re-infection.
"These were throat swab tests that were positive each time. The patient never had a negative test, and we can tell it was one continuous infection because the genetic signature of it - the information we got from sequencing the viral genome - was unique and constant in that patient," said the study's first author Dr. Luke Blagdon Snell, from the Department of Infection at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London, to the BBC.
The patient was treated with antiviral drugs and eventually succumbed to their conditions and died in hospital in 2021. The patient, along with eight others, was part of a study titled "A longitudinal study of evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants in immunocompromised individuals with persistent infection" that has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Immunocompromised patients with persistent [COVID-19] infection have poor outcomes, and new treatment strategies are urgently needed to clear their infection. This may also prevent the emergence of variants," study co-author Dr. Gaia Nebbia, an infectious disease specialist at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, said in a statement.
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