South Africa – South African scientists said that the emergence of new Covid-19 variants could be linked with untreated HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Viruses) in some cases. Scientists are investigating the “highly plausible hypothesis” to understand the link between HIV and variants of Covid-19.
Ever since the news of the Omicron variant being detected first in South Africa in an AIDS patient, scientists started investigating the link between HIV cases and Covid-19. According to the Scientists, in some cases, mutations take place inside infected people whose immune systems have already been weakened by other factors such as untreated HIV. According to the BBC, researchers have already noticed that Covid-19 can remain for many months in patients who are HIV positive.
Immune system and Covid-19 link
Professor Linda-Gayle Bekker, who heads the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Cape Town, said that the immune system would kick a virus out quickly if it is fully functional. She also said, “If someone’s immunity is suppressed, then we see virus persisting. And it doesn’t just sit around, it replicates. And as it replicates it undergoes potential mutations.”
Earlier, when South African scientists were tracking the new Coronavirus variant, Omicron. They said that Omicron may have emerged from that patient who was already suffering from HIV/AIDS and prolonged Covid-19 infection.
Genetic shifts in Covid patients
In South Africa, one case was reported this year, where a woman continued to test positive for Covid-19 for almost eight months. The virus underwent more than 30 genetic shifts. Professor Tulio de Oliveira, who leads the team, said that it is a plausible explanation that individuals that are immuno-suppressed can be a source of virus evolution. However, Professor Salim Karim, a leading HIV specialist said that the link between immuno-suppressed patients and new Covid variants is “a highly plausible hypothesis.” Reportedly, in South Africa, nearly eight million people are living with HIV. However, about one-third of them are not currently taking medication.