Scientists: Those naturally immune to COVID are the final ingredient in a possible cure and treatment. In the hopes of discovering new therapies and treatments, an international team of researchers is looking for persons who are genetically immune to SARS-CoV-2.
A global search for persons who are genetically immune to infection by the pandemic virus has begun by an international team of experts. The researchers believe that by identifying the genes that protect these people, they may be able to produce virus-blocking medications that will not only protect people against COVID-19, but also prevent them from passing it on to others.
Mary Carrington, an immunogeneticist at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Maryland, adds, “It’s a fantastic notion.” “It was a wise decision.” However, success is not assured. According to Isabelle Meyts, a paediatric immunologist and physician at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, who is part of the team driving the initiative, if genetic resistance to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 exists, “just a few” of people may have it.
“The difficulty is how to locate such individuals,” says Sunil Ahuja, an infectious-diseases expert at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “It’s a difficult task. This is not a game for the weak of heart.” Despite this, the study’s authors, notably Evangelos Andreakos, an immunologist at the Academy of Athens’ Biomedical Research Foundation, are optimistic about finding their target. He continues, “Even if we find one, it will be huge.”
The first stage is to focus the search on those who have been exposed to a sick person for an extended length of time without protection and have not tested positive for the virus or established an immune response to it. People who shared a residence and a bed with an infected partner — so-called discordant couples — are of special concern. A group of co-authors from ten research centers throughout the world, ranging from Brazil to Greece, has already identified 500 probable candidates who meet these requirements.
And since their research was published less than two weeks ago, another 600 people have contacted them, including those from Russia and India, to nominate themselves as prospective candidates. According to Jean-Laurent Casanova, a geneticist and research co-author at Rockefeller University in New York City, the response was “completely unexpected.”
“I never imagined for a second that individuals who had been exposed but were not affected would approach us.” The goal is to have at least 1,000 participants, and Andreakos claims that data analysis has already begun.
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