If some people are struck hard by the coronavirus, can it be that it can attack 'hidden mutations' that increase the chance of serious complications in the host cells?
Maybe this might answer why strains can infect patients from just a cold and sometimes a fatal case of ARDS, especially that even young people are affected now.
Does this forebode a very virulent form emerging that affects younger people?
The answer lies in the genes, small mutations that might be the gateway for the virus to attack the immune response and seek treatments for it.
A common denominator for severe patients are elders, those with hidden illnesses, and men. For most instances, this is the usual profile of the cases, but younger than 50 are now attacked and infected by the virus.
According to geneticist Jean-Laurent Casanova, it is this small 5% of all patients that might hold the key.
He told AFP,"Someone who could have run the marathon in October 2019 and yet in April 2020 is in intensive care, intubated and ventilated."
The objective is to find and discover if there are rare genetic mutations that impact cells and how to protect against them.
One idea is that patients possess variable genetic differences, that are triggered by the coronavirus that may attack the immune system and organs with effective impunity.
COVID Human Genetics Effort was co-founded by Casanova, who with other scientists will track the genome of severely-ill younger patients in places like China, Iran, Europe, North America and Japan.
One target is young people who resisted infection with repeated exposure.
A study like this is a global effort of many scientists looking at the COVID-19 genome and to look for clues and determine what makes the virus tick, how it sickens some more than others, and create effective anti-viral therapies.
Genes, not luck is the cause
One cause of sickness is the genetic mutations that vary from individuals and is the reason for some vulnerabilities in cells.
Mutations can be slightly beneficial. A discovery by researchers in the middles 1990s of the single gene (CCR5) that blocked cells from getting infected by HIV.
Finding the gene gave a way to know how HIV infects cells, and allow new treatments to be devised for the disease.
According to Jacques Fellay, a professor of Human Genomics of Infectious Diseases at the Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne, getting sick is not bad luck but was really in the genes.
He told AFP," Today, we have the capacity to go and dissect the genome of these people and see if they have a rare mutation which could make them particularly susceptible."
He added that there will degrees of immune responses governed by the genes, attributing immune responses to a mechanical watch.
Developing an effective treatment
Mark Daly said, "we need to have a very large sample and collaboration, and the ability to repeat the observation to be confident about the results."
He is one of the members of the COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative that has around 150 research centers working on it.
A pool of 10,000 patients is needed for the massive study and to share findings as well.
All the information is hoped to be obtained by the summer, but the timeline is yet determined and hopefully a treatment can be discovered.
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