Brazil - Brazil patients 'test positive for TWO coronavirus variants at the same time' in world-first Covid double infection
Biological origin - Infection hazard
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Rio Grande do Sul
Two patients in Brazil have tested positive for more than one strain of coronavirus at the same time in what is believed to be the world's first double Covid infection. Researchers at Feevale University made the discovery after swabbing 90 infected people in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil. One of the patients tested positive for two Brazilian strains which evolved separately in different states, known as P.1 and P.2. P.1 has caused international alarm because it appears to be somewhat resistant to vaccines, which has led to Britain banning all travel from South America. Another patient tested positive for P.2 and the B.1.91 strain, which first appeared in Sweden, at the same time, according to the study, which has not yet been published in a scientific journal or scrutinised by other scientists. Fernando Spilki, the lead researcher on the study, said he feared the co-infections would 'generate combinations and generate new variants even more quickly'. Dr John McCauley, director of the Worldwide Influenza Centre at the Francis Crick Institute in London, told MailOnline it was possible for someone to get infected by two strains at the same time, which can happen with the flu. He warned that, while unlikely, it was also biologically possible the two strains could interfere with one another and swap genetic code. 'Getting one strain up a nostril and another up another nostril doesn't matter...but (the risk is) if they get to the back of the throat and then go into the same cell - then there's an opportunity for this to happen.' Another senior scientist, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was possible the Brazilian scientists had contaminated their samples during sequencing, leading to incorrect results. Brazil is in the middle of a devastating second wave of Covid, with more than 1,000 deaths a day, and has the second highest fatality toll worldwide. At least two variants have spawned there, which experts believe is due to such a high level of sustained transmission, and multiple others are in circulation. Dr Julian Tang, a professor in respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester, said it was 'not uncommon' for two strains of a virus to infect the same person. 'It is perfectly possible for a child attending a primary school to get infected with one variant of Covid-19, and an older sibling to attend secondary school and get infected with a different Covid-19 variant - and for both children to bring their viruses home to infect each other - and their parents with both variants,' he told MailOnline. Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, said it was unlikely that two strains of Covid-19 could infect a cell at the same time. 'If one virus gets in it takes over that cell, and it's difficult for another to get in,' he told MailOnline. He added changes in the virus were being driven by random mutations: 'It does mutate at a very very low rate and a lot of (its mutations are) in response to the low pressure that we put on it.' He said it was through this mechanism that changes in the virus were occurring and new strains were evolving, and there was no proof that variants had emerged after swapping genes between different viruses. Professor Keith Neal, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Nottingham, said if there's a lot of transmission 'you can pick up two different viruses around the same time'. But he cautioned that when there is a predominant strain - such as the Kent version in large parts of the UK - people are only likely to catch this one. Covid-19 has been evolving using mutations during the pandemic, which are triggered when the virus makes mistakes while making copies of itself. The N501Y change, which makes the virus more infectious, is one example. It has occurred separately on the Kent, South African and Brazilian variants. The variants have sparked fears the virus could mutate to get around immunity triggered by the vaccines, based on the original form identified in Wuhan, China. But studies show that while the strains appear to make the current crop of vaccines less potent, the jabs are still enough to kill off the mutant variant. Nonetheless, vaccine developers are already working on booster shots to ensure they are 'ahead of the curve' should a variant emerge that can dodge jab immunity. The samples from patients were sequenced in a lab to confirm whether patients had been infected with the virus, with the results published as a pre-print, meaning they haven't been checked by other scientists. It comes as health chiefs began door-to-door mass testing in parts of England today after 11 people tested positive for the South African variant of the virus who had no travel links, suggesting that strain is spreading in the community. In a desperate attempt to keep track of the mutated virus that experts fear could hamper the current crop of vaccines, health officials will visit homes in Woking in Surrey, Walsall in the West Midlands, as well as parts of London, Kent, Hertfordshire and Lancashire. More than 80,000 over-16s will be targeted as part of the huge surveillance scheme and residents will be asked to take a test regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. Local health workers will go door-to-door, as well as police officers, firefighters and council workers. As well as knocking on doors and asking residents to take tests there and then, extra mobile swabbing units will be deployed to all eight postcodes and home testing kits will be available to order online for residents to do themselves. Public Health England has already spotted 105 cases of the 'B.1.351' South African variant since December 22, including at least 11 people — scattered across the eight areas receiving extra testing — who were struck down with the virus but had no history of international travel. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 'enhanced contact tracing' had been carried out to isolate the 11 patients' close contacts. There is currently no evidence that the variant causes more severe illness and early studies suggest the current crop of jabs are good enough to protect against it. Covid-19 has been evolving using mutations during the pandemic, which are triggered when the virus makes mistakes while making copies of itself. The N501Y change, which makes the virus more infectious, is one example. It has occurred separately on the Kent, South African and Brazilian variants. The variants have sparked fears the virus could mutate to get around immunity triggered by the vaccines, based on the original form identified in Wuhan, China. But studies show that while the strains appear to make the current crop of vaccines less potent, the jabs are still enough to kill off the mutant variant. Nonetheless, vaccine developers are already working on booster shots to ensure they are 'ahead of the curve' should a variant emerge that can dodge jab immunity.