Scientists are working hard to unravel the mysteries of COVID-19, including whether some people who’ve never had it are immune. But experts currently disagree on whether these so-called “superdodgers” exist. Some scientists speculate that some of the people who have not yet had COVID-19 actually do to have had but just didn’t know because they were totally asymptomatic. In this line of thinking, researchers at UC San Francisco have found that some people have a genetic mutation that prevents them from having COVID-19 symptoms, even if the virus infects their cells. In other words, this mutation doesn’t stop the infection, but it is doing prevent symptoms from developing.
Other scientists, such as Jean-Laurent Casanova and his team at Rockefeller University, are conducting research to find out if there are people who are never infected to begin with, even when exposed to COVID-19—people who are “true superdodger- have genes. LAist explains that while not impossible, this would be quite rare:
Over the course of human history, scientists have identified only two cases of true virus superdodgers. That is, where a specific mutation in their genes makes people completely resistant to a virus. So that it slides off their cells, “like water sliding off a glass window,” as Casanova puts it.
To find out, Casanova and his team are currently recruiting participants. LAist explains:
“You fill out a questionnaire online about your exposure to SARS-CoV-2,” he says. And then if you meet the criteria of a superdodger, the team will send you a test kit. In fact, you spit into a cup and send it back to Casanova and his associates.
On their research website, they explain the purpose of the research:
Why do some people get very sick from Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, others experience few or no symptoms, while still others don’t get infected at all? Rather than luck, we think the answer lies in our genome and immunity. Our genes are small, but powerful and can control our immunity in even the most subtle of ways. This may explain why some people seem better equipped than others to fight this new virus. Immunity can also be disrupted by non-genetic mechanisms, which can be found thanks to the ‘genetic compass’.
Our mission is to find out why and how our genes influence our immunity to the Coronavirus, and how and why immunity can also be influenced by other, non-genetic causes. This discovery will allow us to develop new ways to fight this pandemic: through better and faster diagnosis, new drugs to treat and prevent infection, new ways to develop a vaccine and a better understanding of how these infection works in the body.
If you’ve never had COVID-19 and want to participate, learn more about the study here. And here’s the form you need to fill out if you want to know if you’re eligible.
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