A small demographic may have the key to better understanding how humans are at risk for a COVID-19 infection. Scientists are now looking into a group of people who never contracted the novel coronavirus throughout the pandemic despite the emergence of more transmissible variants.
Around one in ten people in England seemingly have some sort of resistance to COVID-19 because they never caught the virus since the pandemic started. Because of this, scientists are eager to know if this group of people could lead them to a potential cure for the disease.
A study launched late last year introduced a global effort to “dissect the human genetic basis of resistance” to the life-threatening disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. The team behind it proposed a strategy to determine, recruit and genetically analyze the people who showed natural resistance to COVID-19 infection.
The researchers noted that several candidate genes could be involved in providing “inborn resistance” to COVID-19 in certain individuals. By understanding them, the team could identify mechanisms that possibly restrict viral replication and promote resilience upon infection.
“What we are looking for is potentially very rare genetics variants with a very big impact on the individual,” lead researcher András Spaan, a clinical microbiologist from the Rockefeller University in New York, told The Washington Post.
The international study already has 700 participants. More than 5,000 people believed to also be immune to the virus are also being screened by the scientists for the research.
There is a theory that some people may have not contracted COVID-19 due to fewer receptors in their noses, throats, and lungs, making it difficult for the coronavirus to bind and cause an infection. This was brought up because there were health workers who did not wear face masks at the peak of the pandemic and still tested negative for COVID every week.
There is also a possibility that the same group of people might have been previously exposed to a similar virus that gave their immune systems a boost and protection against SARS-CoV-2, as per HuffPost.
For the international study, the team is more focused on uncovering if some people were born with a particular immune system armed with the right genetic materials to combat SARS-CoV-2. Finding answers to this could help the medical community better deal with the situation and come up with the right drugs to counter the virus and its newer strains.