Researchers around the world are working to understand how a shrinking number of people have managed to avoid contracting the coronavirus for more than two years in hopes of uncovering better preventive measures and more effective treatments, The Washington Post reported May 8.
Those who have been fortunate enough to dodge an infection are an exceedingly rare group, given the highly transmissible omicron variant, which caused the daily average of U.S. cases to reach record levels of more than 800,000 last winter.
“Those people should be exceedingly rare in the United States at this point,” Christopher Murray, MD, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the Post.
A recent CDC analysis estimates nearly 60 percent of Americans had contracted COVID-19 as of February.
András Spaan, MD, PhD, a clinical microbiologist and fellow at the Rockefeller University in New York City is among those leading studies trying to better understand people who seem to be resistant to COVID-19.
“What we are looking for is potentially very rare genetic variants with a very big impact on the individual,” Dr. Spaan said. He told the Post his international study has enrolled 700 participants and is screening more than 5,000 people who believe they may be immune.
Scientists have several hypotheses for why some people may be resistant to the virus, such as some people having fewer receptors for the virus to bind to in their noses, throats and lungs.
Complicating these research efforts is identifying people who have truly never been infected with the coronavirus, since it’s possible many people who believe they’ve never had COVID-19 were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms and didn’t realize they were infected.
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