COVID19 isn’t as random as you think
Genes and COVID19
The randomness in COVID19 infection: some people get severely ill while others not getting infected or remaining asymptomatic isn’t random. Underneath the randomness lies a strong genetic reason though not the only reason.
Stroll and the idea
One day Dr Zatch was taking a stroll when she realised she hadn’t seen her neighbour for a long time. She ran into the neighbour’s spouse, who said he had been sick and was recovering at home from COVID.
What struck Dr Zatch was how is it that the spouse taking care of her infected husband without a mask hasn’t fallen ill, or if she has got infected, she remains asymptomatic.
Why young men, without any identifiable risk factors, are severely affected by COVID and end up in hospital while their spouses and children manage the infection at home? Members of a family, some getting severely ill, while others remain healthy or have asymptomatic infection. These members belong to the same age and ancestry.
Dr Zatch went on television and asked people in the country to share their stories in which some family members have been severely infected while others from the same family remain healthy or asymptomatic even though the healthy ones share the same living space.
Genes and Disease
Dr Zatch had been interested in genetic study since her early days as a doctor. Previously, she had studied a case wherein two boys (brothers) had the same genetic mutation, but muscle atrophy had different effects on them. One ended up in a wheelchair early in his life, and the other remained highly mobile.
Another case in which two twins got the Zika virus in the womb. One was born with severe complications, while the other was born normal. On studying the cases, Dr Yatch found that killer cell response, an important part of the immune system, was robust in unaffected cases.
COVID and Genes
Dr Yatch examined a combination of genes rather than a particular gene as more than one genes need to change to affect the immune response to COVID.
Though it’s not to say that all those who have successfully escaped infection have a strong killer cells response, but it offers a missing piece of many pieces of the puzzle.
Another Doctor has been studying genetic mutation ever since he noticed that some children become severely ill from an infection that often has a mild effect on other children.
He studied those cases and found that genes producing interferons, proteins responsible for taming the virus, are impeded in children having a severe infection.
Somehow, the immune system misleads and attacks the interferon-producing cells, which impairs its functions as part of the immune system.
And you would think the centenarians are the most vulnerable group, but Dr Yatch has found cases where centenarians have made it through the infection unscathed.
If the study can isolate the genes responsible for successfully defending against the pathogen, we can understand better why some people are better posited to fight COVID infection.
The infection varying in severity isn’t random. We try to find an answer, and if we don’t understand, we attribute it to randomness, but it isn’t random.