A man whose Covidinfection was thought to have been one of the longest in the world is finally clear of the virus after more than a year, doctors say.
The 59-year-old had the virus for 411 days and doctors say he was cured with a cocktail of drugs. The longest Covid infection on record is thought to be 505 days – more than a year and four months.
It comes as new government statistics suggest an estimated 2.1 million people in private households in the UK – 3.3 per cent of the population – are suffering from long Covid, limiting their ability to perform daily activities.
The condition, whose symptoms include fatigue, “brain fog” and aching, is more common in women, people aged 35 to 69 and people living in deprived areas, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.
In the latest case of record infection, London medical experts succeeded in curing the man with a mix of neutralising antibodies known to be effective against early coronavirus variants – but said such treatments would probably no longer work.
The patient, who has a weakened immune system following a kidney transplant, had been unable to shake off an early variant of the virus.
The man’s infection was detected through analysis of the genetics of the virus strain he was carrying.
According to the research, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, he first tested positive in December 2020 and, although his symptoms went away, he continued to test positive intermittently until January this year.
The team who cared for him, from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, had also treated the patient who tested positive for Covid for 505 days but later died.
That person, who had several underlying conditions, caught Covid in early 2020, and was in and out of hospital many times.
Scientists say that when someone is infected for a long time, it gives the virus more chances to develop mutations to evade the immune system.
So although lengthy coronavirus infections are rare, it is important to study them because of the risk that new variants may emerge.
But the doctors say new variants mean neutralising antibody treatments are now largely ineffective.
Luke Snell, from Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “Some new variants of the virus are resistant to all the antibody treatments available in the UK and Europe.
“Some people with weakened immune systems are still at risk of severe illness and becoming persistently infected. We are still working to understand the best way to protect and treat them.”
The new ONS figures also showed 735 deaths involving coronavirus in the UK in the week ending 21 October, up from 625 in the previous week.