Covid-19 in France

French patient critical after reinfection with S.African Covid variant

Intensive care unit for patients infected with Covid-19 in a hospital in Gironde, France (Illustration photo).
Intensive care unit for patients infected with Covid-19 in a hospital in Gironde, France (Illustration photo). © AFP/Philippe Lopez

Doctors in France are treating a critically ill patient who became infected with the South African coronavirus variant, four months after he recovered from Covid-19, in a study authors said was the first case of its kind.


The 58-year-old man had a history of asthma and initially tested positive for Covid-19 in September when he came to medical staff with a fever and shortness of breath.

The symptoms persisted only for a few days, and the man tested negative for Covid-19 twice in December 2020.

However, he was admitted to hospital in January and diagnosed with the South African variant.

The patient's condition worsened, and he is currently in a "critical condition" on a ventilator.

"This is, to our knowledge, the first description of reinfection with the South African (variant) causing severe Covid-19, four months after a first mild infection," said authors of a study published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Eight key mutations

The 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant emerged late last year in South Africa and immediately provoked alarm among disease specialists.

It has eight key mutations, one of which affects the virus' spike protein, making it more effective at binding to human cells and therefore more infectious.

Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna say their mRNA vaccines retain their effectiveness against the South African variants and another that emerged last year in Britain.

However a study in South Africa last week showed that AstraZeneca's vaccine provided only minimal protection against mild to moderate cases of the South African variant.

"The impact of 501Y.V2 mutations on the effectiveness of vaccines developed based on earlier SARS-CoV-2 strains is still unknown," said the authors of the reinfection study.

A company spokesperson said researchers were already working to update the vaccine to deal with the South African variant, which has been spreading rapidly around the world.

(with AFP)

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