Patient Ian Lester was unable to leave his home for months.
It was like living in the same day, you just end up sitting staring at the wall, he says. Photo: Provided to BBC News by the patient.
Ian Lester was stuck at home with a covid infection that had lasted for more than seven months. And to “release” it, a vaccine was used.
It is the first case in which a vaccine is used to “treat” covid and not to “prevent” it. Lester, 37, has a weakened immune system that was unable to defeat the virus on its own.
Scientists and doctors from Cardiff University and the Welsh Immunodeficiency Center at the University Hospital of Wales were monitoring the battle between the viruses and the immune system of Ian.
The analysis showed that Ian had a long-term infection, not just a “dead virus” being detected, and his symptoms were not long-standing COVID.
“Ian didn’t really have much of an immune response against the covid virus,” Dr Mark Ponsford, a clinical scientist at Cardiff University, told the BBC.
They couldn’t find antibodies that latched onto and neutralized the coronavirus, and there was only limited evidence of T cells, another wing of the immune system, capable of attacking COVID.
At the time, in early summer 2021, there were limited treatments, so the medical team decided to try something radical.
Instead of giving a vaccine to prevent infection, they decided to use Pfizer’s vaccine to treat the disease.
The difference in Ian’s body “was like night and day,” says Dr. Ponsford. The first dose started to build his immunity, but it took a second dose to get to the point where his body could fight off the virus.
By the end of August, Ian was testing negative again, but how did the vaccine get rid of the infection when months of having the virus failed to build up enough immunity?
Professor Stephen Jolles, clinical lead at the Center for Immune Deficiency, said: “This infection was spurting, and with his immune system [debilitado] it just couldn’t start a response enough to remove it.
“So the vaccine really made a big difference, on antibodies and T cells, and used and squeezed every ounce of what his immune system could do.”
The day Ian was finally covid-free he was “ecstatic” and says “to tell the truth, I couldn’t believe it”.
He celebrated with a day at the beach and a portion of fish and chips with Katie. “Everything is back to normal now,” she says.
The researchers believe this approach may be used in more people with weakened immune systems that are struggling to fight infection.
There are now antiviral drugs that weren’t available when Ian had covid, but the team believes vaccines could offer a cheaper and longer-lasting option.
Before the vaccine
He says that while he was isolated for months, he became prisoner in his own house in Caerphilly, Wales.
Ian was born with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, which makes it difficult to fight infections. Even a common cold can linger.
During the first wave of COVID he protected himself, but the coronavirus finally infected him in December 2020. He had one of the classic symptoms, a mild loss of taste and smell, which disappeared within a month. For most of us, that would be the end, but Ian’s journey through covid was only just beginning.
His doctors wanted him to continue having tests because your immune system weakened meant there was a risk he might be contagious for longer than normal.
Month after month, test after test, he was positive. Ian had to leave the optician where he worked, where he had to be in close contact with others, and stay home.
Initially, he tried to make the most of it and enjoyed the Christmas holidays, but eventually the isolation took its toll. “People might have thought it was going to be a long vacation, but after three months it wasn’t,” says Ian.
Slowly, every day began to feel the same: a routine of cooking, watching TV, reading, playing the guitar, and just waiting for his wife, Katie, to come home. “It was like living in the same day, you just end up sitting there staring at the wall,” she says.
“Little by little it became my prison, especially when summer came [boreal] and restrictions were lifted for everyone else; You could see family and friends starting to come back to real life, and I was still having these positive results.”
relapse with symptoms
Ian started getting sick again after three months.
He developed fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and a tightness in his chest, struggled to concentrate, and every three to four weeks a sticky mucus built up in his lungs.
The symptoms were never enough to need hospital treatment, but it was clear that his body was not getting rid of the coronavirus easily.
“I was worried it would just keep getting worse and worse and I would never be able to get rid of this,” she says.
Source consulted here.