Scientists launch a global search to find people genetically resistant to covid-19

Share your love

An international team of scientists has recently published a study in the journal Nature in which they claim to have launched a global search of people genetically resistant to covid-19 infection. The aim of the research is to identify protective genes and use them to develop medications that prevent the transmission of the disease.

“It’s a fantastic idea”, assures Mary Carrington, an immunogeneticist at the Frederick National Cancer Research Laboratory in the city of Bethesda, Maryland, USA. “It really is a wise thing to do,” added the specialist.

However, while the idea is promising, there are still significant obstacles to overcome to make it a reality. According to Isabelle Meyts, a pediatric immunologist and physician at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), there may be “just a handful“of people genetically resistant to covid-19 around the world.

“The question is how to find these people,” says Sunil Ahuja, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center. “It is very challenging. This is not for the faint of heart,” he says.

The study authors explain that the first step is to limit the search to people who have been exposed, without protection, to a sick person for a long period of time and who have not tested positive or presented symptoms of the virus. The individuals of greatest interest are those who have shared a house and bed with an infected partner, but who have not contracted the disease. This is known as a discordant pair.

So far, the team of scientists has already rounded up about 500 potential candidates who could meet these criteria, although the goal is to have at least 1,000 participants.

Read Also   Meta launches a tool to protect against revenge porn and offers users to send them their 'nudes', but in encrypted form

According to Ahuja, the fact that many people have been vaccinated, potentially masking Any genetic resistance to the virus further limits the group of people to study.

Mechanisms of resistance

Still, the researchers are confident that they will find enough study subjects and, once they have been identified, they will compare their genomes with those of people who have been infected, looking for genes associated with resistance.

Scientists consider that the most obvious resistance mechanism may be the fact that some people do not have a working ACE2 receiver, which SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter cells and thus infect them.

This type of mechanism has previously been observed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In fact, Ahuja and Carrington participated years ago in work that helped identify a rare mutation that deactivates the CCR5 receptor on white blood cells, preventing HIV from entering them.

That knowledge has been really helpful“says Carrington, noting that this eventually led to the creation of HIV-blocking drugs.

On the other hand, scientists also hypothesize that some people might have mutations that increase genes that prevent SARS-CoV-2 from replicating, or mutations that break down viral RNA in the cell. For these reasons, despite the challenges they face, they are optimistic and they hope to find people naturally resistant to the disease.

Article Source

Share your love