COVID-19 patients with weakened immune systems may be acting as incubators for the mutating virus, according to a new theory, The Washington Post reports.
Researchers and physicians have found at least 15 “eerily similar” cases in which variants were found in immunocompromised patients—months before the variants were found circulating elsewhere.
“The evidence points to these immunocompromised patients as an accelerated cauldron of evolution,” said the University of Colorado at Boulder’s David Pollack.
In most patients, active COVID-19 infection lasts 8-10 days—limiting time for mutations to brew. But in immunocompromised people—those with HIV or cancer, for example—infections can drag on for months. That gives the virus a golden opportunity to mutate.
Research Implications: Researchers speculate that some treatments, such as convalescent plasma and monoclonal antibodies, may play a role.
Clinical Implications: The experts are debating how to manage immunocompromised COVID-19 patients in terms of testing and sequencing frequency, isolation procedures, and treatment protocols.