New groundbreaking research has revealed that some healthy Australians who develop the most serious coronavirus symptoms are missing a crucial set of proteins which protects the body from viruses.
According to two new papers published in Science, patients who lack the type I interferon genetic mutation – a set of 13 proteins crucial for protecting cells from viruses – were more associated with severe infections.
Professor John Christodoulou, who is co-leading the Australian arm of the COVID Human Genetic Effort, told The New Daily that the two papers provide a potential explanation for severe infections seen in up to 15 percent of cases.
“The way SARS-CoV-2 affects people differently has been puzzling,” Professor Christodoulou said.
“The virus can cause a symptom-free infection and go away quietly or it can kill in a few days.”
In addition to the people who produce misguided antibodies which attack their own cells rather than the coronavirus, another 3.5 percent carry genetic mutations which will impair their immune response.
And the new research also helps explain why more men die than women.
“10 percent of individuals with severe COVID-19 infection had auto-antibodies to type I interferon, neutralising the early protective effect of innate immunity,” Professor Christodoulou said.
“Importantly, 95 percent of these individuals were men, which might explain at least some of the sex differences we see in COVID-19 infection, which tends to affect males more severely.”
Experts say the overall good news from this research is that doctors should now be able to address the missing interferon problem with existing medications and interventions.
Source: The New Daily.