Reports show that a patient who lives with untreated HIV, cancer, or other conditions that weaken their immune system is a fortifier for COVID-19. These patients usually take more time recovering from the coronavirus, which is why scientists worldwide are currently studying the evolution of the virus in immunocompromised patients with months-long Covid infections.
The virus reportedly finds itself in an evolutionary training gym where it keeps mutating to find new ways around all immune responses.
Researchers said this phenomenon could have birthed the powerful B.1.1.529 variant.
Carsten Watzl, Secretary-General of the German Society for Immunology (DGfI), said the virus could multiply over many weeks in people with a weakened immune system.
He told n-tv: “During this process, isolated mutations can occur that may not be of any benefit to the virus, but which can continue to multiply due to the lack of control by the immune system.”
Many HIV patients in Africa are not being adequately treated, which is why their immune system is significantly weakened, said Mr Watzl.
Around 8.2 million South Africans are infected with HIV.
Only about 71 percent of adults, and 45 percent of children, are on treatment.
Durban-based Professor Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases expert at the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (KRISP), told The Telegraph: “It doesn’t seem to have emerged from a normal evolutionary process.
Professor Lessels added: “What we’re seeing is what we’ve warned about for the last year.
“If we leave parts of the world behind… then the disease will continue to evolve.
“We could have reduced the risk of this happening, and we still can if we deal with the vaccine apartheid.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.