LONDON — A COVID-19 patient infected for nearly 14 months has been cured thanks to the same experimental drug cocktail given to former president Donald Trump, a new report reveals.
According to researchers in London, the patient contracted an early variant of the virus and had a weakened immune system following a kidney transplant. Now, the 59-year-old has been declared free of the illness — 411 days after their initial diagnosis. The case is one of the longest on record. It is also different from “long COVID,” where various symptoms linger for weeks and even months after the infection clears.
The British researchers say persistent infections are rare and most people naturally clear the virus after a brief illness.
The individual originally tested positive in December 2020 and continued to do so intermittently during routine hospital appointments until January 2022. By then, he had received three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. A genetic analysis revealed he had a mutated version of the original Wuhan variant, which was dominant in the United Kingdom during the pandemic.
The patient was eventually given a monoclonal antibody treatment, made by biotech company Regeneron, which binds to the virus to stop it infecting cells and replicating. It’s the same treatment then-President Trump received after contracting COVID in October 2020. The team at Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Hospital are confident the unnamed patient is finally free of the virus.
Patients in poor health could be sick for months instead of days
Chronic infections like this need studying to improve our understanding of COVID and the risks it can pose.
“Some new variants of the virus are resistant to all the antibody treatments available in the UK and Europe,” says lead author Dr. Luke Blagdon Snell in a statement from SWNS.
“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 variant in this case has long since mutated in the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron strains of COVID. A DNA sequence technique can rapidly identify them, enabling improved personalized therapies.
“Since the pandemic began, neutralizing antibodies have been regularly used as treatments,” Dr. Snell tells SWNS. “Famous examples include former US President Donald Trump, who received the same Regeneron cocktail as this 411-day infected patient.”
Will the treatment work on newer variants?
Continual emergence of new variants, however, could eventually render this treatment ineffective, the team says. For Omicron, no treatments that definitively beat the virus are currently available.
Recently, advocacy groups have campaigned for another monoclonal antibody cocktail, named Evusheld, to be made available to the public as a protection against infection.
“The 411-day patient remains stable and well, and is one of the longest known cases of COVID infection,” Dr. Snell says in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
A 505-day infected patient previously treated by the same team at Guy’s & St. Thomas’ is believed to be the longest on record. That unnamed individual had other underlying medical conditions and died in hospital in 2021.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.