A team of leading scientists at the NGS-SA (Network for Genomic Surveillance, South Africa) will be reportedly studying COVID-19 and HIV in tandem, as evidence mounts that the collision of these two pandemics may be generating new variants of the coronavirus.
The South African scientists, who first alerted the world of the Omicron variant, have stated that it was time for a systematic investigation as to what would happen if a patient with untreated HIV is infected with COVID-19.
Many studies, including one published last week by the team itself, have found that those with weakened immune systems, such as untreated HIV patients, might suffer from incessant coronavirus infections for months.
The virus has been found to remain in their system and accumulate mutations, which can give it an advantage.
Some researchers also believe that this behavior may be the cause behind the development of Omicron and a few other COVID variants, while others believe that variants may have developed in animals and spilled back into humans.
Stellenbosch University researcher and lead author of the recent paper, Tongai Maponga, stated that he and his colleagues at the NGS-SA were discussing a better in-depth study in order to support this hypothesis.
Maponga added that the few cases that were seen and described so far were due to random surveillance, but soon they will engage in a more systematic look for better understanding, especially at patients suffering from severely immunocompromised HIV.
Mopanga explained that their work will be focused on two elements, first; the way patients and their systems are dealing with the infection, and second; proving if new variants can emerge through this.
If it turns out to be the case, then diagnosis of this demographic needs to be improved dramatically, while also ensuring that they get a prompt and timely diagnosis as well as treatment.
Saoirse Fitzpatrick, Advocacy Manager, StopAids, stated that the pandemic has severely affected HIV testing worldwide and that it will not be a sufficient public health approach for leaving out HIV from the COVID response.