(ORDO NEWS) — You have probably heard the stories of people who have managed not to get sick throughout the pandemic. They went to school, work, met with friends, but COVID-19 never caught up with them. Scientists are finally beginning to understand what the “trick” is.
The coronavirus is very insidious. It is not only deadly for some populations, but also leaves a “ghostly trace” in the body.
Phoebe Garrett is one of the participants in the COVID-19 Challenge. During the entire pandemic, the girl never got sick. During the experiment , live virus was dripped into her nose and her nostrils were closed for several hours in a deliberate attempt to infect her. But her body continued to resist!
The scientists note that understanding the mechanisms that keep some people’s bodies from getting sick could lead to the development of drugs that not only protect people from the coronavirus, but also prevent transmission (the long-awaited end of the pandemic?).
Garrett is not the only participant in this experiment. Of the 34 people in the study who were exposed to the virus, 16 did not develop the infection. Perhaps the immune system quickly suppressed the embryonic infection.
“In our previous studies with other viruses, we have observed early immune responses in the nose that are associated with resistance to infection,” said Professor Christopher Chiu of Imperial College London, who led the study.
“Taken together, these results imply that there is a struggle between the virus and the host that, in our ‘uninfected’ participants, results in preventing the spread of infection.”
Some participants who never became infected (according to the results of the test) did have symptoms of the disease: nasal congestion, sore throat, fatigue or headache.
These symptoms can also occur due to other factors, so they do not necessarily indicate the spread of coronavirus in the body. “In any case, virus levels did not rise high enough to elicit detectable levels of antibodies that are normally associated with symptoms,” the scientists write.
What other research has been done on this topic?
Some work also shows that it is possible to “overcome” the coronavirus in the earliest stages of infection. For example, during the first wave of the pandemic, Dr. Leo Swadling of University College London and colleagues intensively followed a group of healthcare workers who had regular contact with infected patients but who never tested positive or who quickly self-produced antibodies.
Blood tests showed that approximately 15% of them had Sars-CoV-2-responsive T cells, plus other markers of viral infection.
It is possible that memory T cells from previous coronavirus infections, that is, those responsible for the common cold, cross-reacted with the new coronavirus and protected people from the new coronavirus.
That is, the “old” disease can protect against a new one?
Seasonal coronaviruses may not be the only source of cross-protective immune responses. Professor Cecilia Söderberg-Naukler, an immunologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, began studying the phenomenon after Sweden was able to avoid high levels of infection during the first wave of the pandemic despite relatively light restrictions.
Mathematical modeling has shown that such a picture can only be explained if the majority of people have some kind of protective immunity.
So the scientists scanned the protein sequence databases of existing viruses, looking for small segments (peptides) similar to those found in the new coronavirus that antibodies are likely to bind to.
When they identified a six amino acid peptide in the H1N1 flu protein that matched a critical part of the coronavirus spike protein, they were shocked!
Scientists have found antibodies to this protein in 68% of blood donors from Stockholm! The yet-to-peer-reviewed study may suggest that immune responses caused by the H1N1 flu that caused the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic, and possibly related subsequent strains, may provide people with partial protection against COVID -19.
Beyond this, scientists believe that a small proportion of people may even be genetically resistant to the new disease.
Now scientists are only recruiting volunteers to search for “those same genes.” They are especially interested in people who have shared an apartment and bed with an infected person but have escaped infection themselves.
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