Global Hunt For Covid-19 Resistant
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A New GWAS Study Launches Global Hunt For Covid-19 Resistant People

For a new project, individuals who are genetically resistant to coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 virus) are summoned. Volunteers are chosen if they are one of a couple who stayed healthy despite close contact with the infected partner.

Researchers from around the world have started a worldwide hunt for individuals who have inborn genetic resistance to Covid-19 infections, in an effort to find these specific protective genes and to develop viral-blocking drugs in the future.

If such an innate immunity for Covid-19 prevail among us, it could be a major breakthrough for therapeutic development that can even curb the spread of the disease from a Covid-19 positive person.

This elite group of scientists from ten different global research institutes plans to gather candidates who didn’t have an immune response or test positive for SARS-CoV-2 or develop Covid-19 infection even after unprotected exposure to coronavirus.

The scientists have commenced the work after noticing the study findings of secondary Covid attack rates revealing the immunity of some individuals despite the disease contraction in the rest of the family and close contact with the ill person as well as the uncovering of innate genetic resistance

in 2017 via a mutation to Plasmodium vivax, a malaria-causing parasite

The details of the new project are elucidated in the article published in the journal Nature Immunology.

Illustration of the approach & inclusion criteria employed in the study. Image Credits: Nature Immunology

Insights On Genes & Genetic Mutation For Viral Resistance

For the study, they are hoping to register 1,000 candidates, mainly individuals who did not develop the disease regardless of close physical interactions with their partner who got sick.

After shortlisting such people, the scientists will sequence & compare their genomes with those of the infected people. These kinds of studies are known as GWAS (Genome-Wide Association Studies), which produces data at a genetic level. They expect to get insights into any genetic mutations or genes related to Covid-19 immunity or resistance with GWAS on Covid resistant people.

The scientists propose that few resistance mechanisms could be factors such as a lowered expression or functional impairment of the ACE2 receptor, which the coronavirus employs to attach to our cells. Similar genetic mutations have been seen before with natural HIV cure or HIV resistance. Additionally, there could be mutations that can destroy viral RNA present inside the cells or prevent the replication of viruses.

After identifying such genes, they will be further studied in animal models and cell cultures for additional assessment.

The team has observed increased susceptibility to severe Covid-19 infections due to rare genetic mutations in people.

In Nature’s accompanying article, it was mentioned that more than 500 potential volunteers have already been chosen for the project, and ever since the reveal of project details with article publication, around 600 individuals including Indians have volunteered and been found eligible for the study.


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