Africa’s Low-Immunity Population Raises Covid Variant Risk
(Bloomberg) -- The large number of people in Africa with a weakened immune system makes it ripe for the development of Covid-19 variants, the head of a South African genomics institute said.
The study of an individual with advanced HIV and limited adherence to anti-retroviral treatment showed that a Covid-19 infection persisted for more than 200 days and “multimutational escape variants” developed, Tulio de Oliveira, the head of the institute said.
Africa is home to the bulk of the world’s HIV infections, with South Africa alone having about 7.7 million affected individuals, and high burdens of diseases such as tuberculosis. HIV causes AIDS, a disease that affects the immune system.
We “need to control the pandemic in the continent with the largest immunosuppressed individual population in the world,” de Oliveira, who heads the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, said in a presentation to an immunology conference on Monday.
“There is good evidence that prolonged infection in immunocompromised individuals is one mechanism for the emergence” of Covid-19 variants, he said.
De Oliveira urged a faster rate of vaccinations in South Africa to prevent the development of further mutations.
“South Africa really risks becoming one of the mutation factories of the world,” he said.
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