Gettyimages.ru Christoph Bergstede / Science Image Library
A team of researchers affiliated with a group of institutions in the UK and Brazil has, in part, solved the mystery of why some are naturally less resistant to COVID-19 than others.
A new study shows that small differences in an individual’s genetic makeup may help explain why some people build a strong natural defense against Covid infection, while others become severely ill.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow’s Center for Virus Research have identified a specific protein called OAS1, which is thought to play a key role in shaping the early stages of an individual’s response to Sars-CoV-2.
When a human cell is infected, the OAS1 protein interacts with interferon signaling by inviting an immune response upon detection of SARS-CoV-2, allowing the cell to begin attacking the virus’ genetic material.
Previous studies have also shown that these signals can inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication.
The study, published in Science, reports that some people express a more protective version of OAS1 that binds to membranes using a prenyl group as part of the signaling process, which is the addition of a single lipid molecule to the protein encoded by the OAS1 gene.
Because coronaviruses burrow inside cells and replicate their genomes inside lipid-formed vesicles, pre-OAS1 is more suitable to search for Sars-CoV-2 and direct cellular weapons to attack it.
The researchers looked at copies of 500 COVID-19 patients who had a wide range of symptoms, and found that those who had not been exposed to prior OAS1 experienced more severe symptoms. Why some people are born without this enzyme is still a mystery, but the team’s work could help lead to new types of vaccines against “Covid-19” and other types of infections.
According to their findings, the researchers turned their attention to another mammal, the horseshoe bat, one of the putative sources of SARS-CoV-2, and found that it does not possess the OAS1 preform that protects humans from the virus. This finding could help explain why bats are such prolific hosts for a variety of viruses.
This means that the virus never needed to adapt to evade this line of defense, but if SARS-CoV-2 mutates and gains the ability to circumvent the defenses generated by OAS1 priming, the virus could potentially become more lethal or transmissible.
Source: The Independent
“Reader. Infuriatingly humble travel enthusiast. Extreme food scholar. Writer. Communicator.”