August 20, 2022

The previous longest case was 335 days

A British patient was found to have suffered from the longest case of covid, testing positive for the virus over 505 consecutive days before their eventual death.

As published in a study by King’s College London, alongside Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trusts, the now-deceased individual – whose identity remains anonymous – was found to have suffered from the longest case of coronavirus in recorded history, returning continuous positive PCR tests for nearly a year and a half.

The patient was part of research involving nine immunocompromised patients who had all tested positive for covid-19 for at least eight consecutive weeks. While the average infection persisted for 73 days, two patients continued to suffer for more than a year.

Conducting the investigation between March 2020 and December 2021, many of the nine participants with weakened immune systems – either due to organ transplantation, HIV, cancer or other illnesses – were subject to regular sampling and genetic analysis for as long as 21 months.

Five of the nine tested did develop at least one mutation associated with variants such as Alpha, Delta and Omicron, though researchers did note that none of those involved developed any signs of a previously unknown variant of concern.

In total, five of the patients tested survived the illness, two of those five did not receive any treatment for a SARS-CoV-2 infection and two cleared the infection after treatment with the usual antibody therapies and antivirals.

Aside from the one case which tested positive for 72 weeks, one individual is said to still have an ongoing infection.

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Among their findings, researchers determined that variants are more likely to arise in immunocompromised individuals, with the 505-day long patient developing as many as 10 mutations, all thought to have arisen separately across several major variants including Alpha, Gamma and Omicron.

It is worth distinguishing that these particular cases are not the same as long covid, which refers to when symptoms of the infection persist for an extended period of time after contracting and having gotten rid of the virus.

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