People infected with the novel coronavirus might have several different COVID-19 variants hidden inside their immune systems in different parts of the body, according to a new study published in the Nature Communications journal.

Why this matters: The research team said the finding would suggest it could be more difficult for people to completely rid themselves of the novel coronavirus.

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What they found: An international team of researchers — led by Imre Berger, a professor at the University of Bristol, and Joachim Spatz, a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg — compiled two separate studies that found that the virus can evolve in different cell types and adapt its immunity quickly.

  • Per the Deccan Herald, the researchers found an early variant called BrisDelta, which was discovered in Bristol, England. The variant had changed from the original virus but was lingering in an infected patient’s immune system.

What they said: ”Our results showed that one can have several different virus variants in one’s body. Some of these variants may use kidney or spleen cells as their niche to hide, while the body is busy defending against the dominant virus type. This could make it difficult for the infected patients to get rid of SARS-CoV-2 entirely,” said Dr. Kapil Gupta, lead author of Berger’s study, per Medical Express.

What’s next: The researchers suggested that this research could offer a way to defeat the virus. Scientists could create an antiviral molecule that could target any variants in the immune system.