Different Covid-19 variants caused simultaneous infection in two cases, Brazil study suggests

Both cases were women in their 30s who had typical mild-to-moderate flu-like symptoms and did not become severely ill or require hospitalization. In one case, the two variants identified had been circulating in Brazil since the beginning of the pandemic. In the other case, the person was simultaneously infected with both an older strain of the virus, and with the P.2 variant first identified in Rio de Janeiro.

The findings, based on analysis of genomic sequencing from 92 samples taken from Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state, will appear in April’s edition of Virus Research, a scientific journal.

According to the study, co-infection raises the possibility of recombination of the genomes of the different strains, which can generate new variants of the coronavirus.

“Although there are a few reported cases of reinfection, the possibility of co-infection by E484K adds a new factor to the complex interaction between immune response systems and SARS-CoV-2 Spike mutations,” wrote the authors.

The news comes as Brazil’s second wave plunges the country into crisis once again. The country registered 2,233 new Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, and at least 272,889 people have died due to the virus since the pandemic began.

ICUs and hospitals across the country are nearing capacity, and governors, state health secretaries, and mayors are calling for more restrictive measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

On Thursday, Sao Paulo state’s Governor Joao Doria announced new emergency lockdown measures in Brazil´s richest and most populous state.

“Brazil is collapsing,” he said in a video released moments before a press conference about the new measures — drawing a striking contrast to assurances by Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello just one day prior.

“Our health system is very impacted, but it has not collapsed nor will it collapse,” Pazuello had asserted Wednesday, attributing the country’s increasing hospitalizations and deaths “mainly to the new variants of the coronavirus.”

Health workers from the Alberto Torres hospital wearing PPE on December 4, 2020 in Sao Goncalo, Brazil.

During the same remarks, Pazuello also downsized expectations for Brazil’s vaccination campaign, estimating that 22 to 25 million Covid-19 vaccine doses would be available through the month of March — a steep drop from the health ministry’s February prediction of 46 million doses.

Meanwhile Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro — himself under fire for his government’s handling of the pandemic — continues to reject lockdown measures, invoking instead the health of the economy.

“How long will our economy resist? If it (the economy) collapses it will be a disgrace. What will we have soon? Supermarket invasions, buses on fires, strikes, pickets, work stoppages,” he said in a video conference with lawmakers Thursday.

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