Last summer, a UK man in his 70s was admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge with COVID-19 pneumonia. He hadn’t been able to shake his illness since testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 more than a month earlier. Despite interventions including multiple rounds of the antiviral remdesivir and convalescent plasma, he died in the hospital’s intensive care unit about 9 weeks after his arrival.
Throughout his hospitalization, the patient continued to test positive with a high viral load. This, along with his worsening illness, indicated that he was battling an ongoing infection with live, replicating virus for more than 100 days.
His body wasn’t equipped for the task. Back in 2012 he had been diagnosed with marginal B-cell lymphoma. The blood cancer, along with the treatment he received for it, had wiped out his B and T cells—both arms of his adaptive immune response—leaving him severely immunocompromised.