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COVID-19 ISO Insights

Exploring Genetic and Acquired Immunity to Covid-19

March 21, 2022

By Travis Decaminada

Key Takeaway: Research into why some people appear resistant to Covid-19 continues even as the pandemic wanes. Per reports, such immunities may be the result of one’s own genome, interactions with other coronaviruses, a robust immune system, or a mix of all of the above and more. However, genuine immunity may not actually exist, and such beliefs, valid or not, could influence a person’s decision to not get vaccinated.

For some, it may feel as though the Covid-19 pandemic is nearing an end. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infection rates are returning to levels similar to those at the outset of the pandemic, with U.S. daily cases decreasing by nearly 30% over the past week alone, as of March 2, 2022. Nonetheless, research into the virus continues, with many outlets recently discussing a very lucky group of people – those who never caught Covid-19.

Genetic Resistance

Per Nature, some people may be blessed with a genetic resistance to the virus, a trait that scientists hope may help catalyze the development of new drugs and treatments. Reportedly, an international team of researchers has “launched a global hunt” for people with such resistances and are asking those who’ve never caught Covid-19 to enroll in their study. Though, per the journal, just because a person was never infected does not mean they possess any form genetic resistance, in fact, if such genes do exist, “only a handful” of individuals are likely to actually carry them.

Of note, scientists are looking for people who shared a home with an infected person but never caught the virus themselves. Reportedly, the team has already identified over 1000 potential candidates.

Other efforts to explore the human genome using DNA databases for help in the fight against Covid-19 have allegedly been able to identify several genes “associated with reduced susceptibility to infection.” However, the protective effects that these single genes provide is often minimal, and it’s not yet understood how such genes are passed down.

Rapid Immune Responses

A related article from The Guardian covers other efforts to explore why some people seem to be impervious to Covid-19. Reportedly, one research study was able to find 34 people who exhibited resistance to the virus in the U.S.; the participants were then intentionally exposed to Covid-19 and summarily tested for infection a week later. According to the article, nearly half of the participants emerged with no signs of infection. The researchers speculate that rapid immune responses in the nose may be responsible for destroying the virus before it could replicate. The study’s authors note “Together, these findings imply that there is a struggle between the virus and host, which in our ‘uninfected’ participants results in prevention of infection taking off.”

Other Coronaviruses

The article from The Guardian also discusses the possibility that one can acquire immunity to Covid-19 via previous coronavirus infections like some common colds. One study involving healthcare professionals reportedly found significant correlations between previous infections and resistance to Covid-19. Other studies have also reportedly found a link between previous swine flu infections and acquired immunity.

Tempering Hubris

 People who have never caught Covid-19 may feel like they’re impervious and will never become infected, but this does not appear to be the case, as Covid-19 is reportedly still an extremely dangerous disease. Per WebMD, such beliefs are foolhardy, and experts implore those who’ve never been infected to follow the recommended CDC guidance by getting vaccinated if possible.

See Also:

Information about vaccines and immunizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Information about antibodies, immunity, and Covid-19 from the American Medical Association (AMA). 

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