Covid: The Scientific Race To Find Coronavirus Resistant People

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Have you been in direct contact with people who have had Covid-19 and never been infected? Did you do the PCR or immunological test and it was negative?

If your answer is yes, you may be one of the rare people in the world with genetic resistance to Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

And, if you are, you may have “very valuable” information on how to prevent this disease that has caused more than 5 million deaths worldwide.

That’s why a group of scientists from ten countries is conducting research to find these people resistant to Sars-Cov-2.

The researchers made an announcement in the journal Nature and have since recruited more than 500 people to undergo tests to see if they carry this genetic resistance.

“We were looking for members of a family, a couple, for example, in which one became seriously ill while the other took care of him, without contracting the infection at all”, explained to BBC News Mundo the doctor Sara Espinosa, from the National Institute of Pediatrics of the Mexico.

“Or it could be a health professional, such as a doctor who was exposed taking care of sick and positive patients and was never infected”, adds the doctor, who coordinates the Covid International Human Genetic Study Consortium in the country.

“In these cases, we could be talking about a possibly resistant patient. That is, a person who has some mechanism in their genes whereby the virus cannot cause the infectious process.”

Resistant, not asymptomatic

The “ideal” candidate, the researchers explain, is a person who has been repeatedly exposed to the virus and has never been infected.

This person must have had negative PCR test results after exposure to the virus.

And after taking the antibody test, it should be negative and show that the person has not developed antibodies to the virus because, even though they were exposed to it, that person was never infected.

“The resistant person must have been in close contact with the infected person and have no symptoms, but we must also confirm that the virus has not infected them, through a negative PCR test and a negative immunological antibody test”, explains the doctor Spinoza.

We now know that many people may have been infected with the virus without developing symptoms of the disease.

But the researchers emphasize that those people who don’t have symptoms are not necessarily resistant to Sars-Cov-2 and can carry the virus in addition to passing it on to others.

“An asymptomatic person can become infected, have the virus and pass it on to other people”, explains immunologist Evangelos Andreakos, from the Athens Biomedical Research Foundation and who is also part of the Consortium for the Human Genetic Study of Covid (COVIDHGE).

“The biological process of an asymptomatic patient is different and we are not looking for these people for this study.”

“The category we are looking for is resistant people who are not infected with the virus. That is, although the virus comes into contact with the respiratory tract of that person, it cannot enter cells or replicate within them”, explains the researcher .

Rare cases

The introduction of SARS-Cov-2 into populations around the world has allowed scientists to study the vast differences in the virus’s infection processes, ranging from asymptomatic to potentially deadly infections.

Since December 2019, when the virus was first detected, knowledge about the potentially deadly disease Covid-19 and the genetic susceptibility that makes some people sicker than others has increased.

However, very little is known about the genetic basis of resistance to Sars-Cov-2.

Scientists point out that this resistance, although rare, exists because it has been seen in other infectious diseases.

“We think this resistance is very rare because it’s what we’ve seen with other infectious diseases. We’ve seen cases of individuals with genetic variants that have made them resistant to HIV infection,” said Dr. Andreakos.

“And we also have precedents for resistance to malaria and sickle cell anemia,” adds the researcher.

Researchers are conducting DNA analyzes of volunteers with the aim of detecting different regions and comparing them to individuals infected with the virus.

The ultimate goal, researchers say, is to be able to develop a therapy or treatment to prevent Sars-Cov-2 infection.

“The main objective is to understand and know the mechanism by which some genetic change does not lead to the infectious process,” Dr. Sara Espinosa told BBC Mundo.

“And that knowledge could lead to us finding drugs that are effective against Sars-Cov-2.”

“Because until now, the drugs we have are to reduce the complications of the disease, but we don’t have any against the microorganism itself.”

“And this research also aims to help find these drugs.”

The researchers say that identifying these Sars-Cov-2 resistant people is “a daunting task,” but they are confident they will find them.

“We know that there are a number of people who possibly have this immunity, this genetic change that guarantees this resistance. We already have around 500 people recruited and genetic studies are already being carried out”, says Sara Espinosa.

“The search is not easy, but it is very important and, even if we identify a few people, they can provide very valuable information. And that’s why this effort is being made around the world.”

In Latin America, in addition to Mexico, the Covid Human Genetic Study is also being carried out in Colombia and Brazil.

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