Coronavirus hits the old and those with other health problems hardest, but fit, youthful people are dying too, and experts are trying to understand why:
It remains one of the biggest puzzles of the Covid-19 pandemic. The disease generally causes serious problems only in older people or those with underlying health problems. But occasionally it strikes down young, apparently fit individuals, including medical staff exposed to patients with the virus.
In some cases, previously undiagnosed conditions are later revealed but in others no such explanations are available, leaving scientists struggling to find reasons for the behaviour of the coronavirus.
Several theories have been proposed. Some researchers believe the amount of virus that infects an individual may have crucial outcomes. Get a huge dose and your outcome may be worse. Others argue that genetic susceptibility may be involved: in other words, that there are individuals whose genetic makeup leaves them more vulnerable to the virus as it spreads through their bodies.
This latter idea is favoured by virologist Michael Skinner at Imperial College London. “It is very possible that some of us could have a particular genetic makeup that makes it more likely that we will respond badly to an infection with this coronavirus,” he said.
An example of such susceptibility is provided by the herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores. In some people, a mutation that affects cell receptors known as TLR3, in their central nervous system, leaves them unable to deal with the worst impact of the virus: they contract a disease called herpes simplex encephalitis, which can lead to seizures and convulsions in children.
“It could be that we are seeing a similar sort of susceptibility in some individuals who get Covid-19, and that leads them to suffer more acutely from serious side-effects,” added Skinner.
Image Credit: Narendra Shrestha/EPA
News This Week
ANSTO has contributed to a comprehensive investigation of a promising type of nanoparticle that could potentially be used for intractable brain cancers in a combined therapy. The study, which was led by Dr. Moeava [...]
The immune response needed to protect people against reinfection with the coronavirus will be explored in a new human challenge trial, researchers have revealed. Human challenge trials involve deliberately exposing healthy people to a [...]
Researchers from Duke University are developing a flu shot with the new technology that was used for two coronavirus vaccines. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna shots use part of the virus's genetic code [...]
Researchers from the University of Liverpool have shown the potential of repurposing an existing and cheap drug into a long-acting injectable therapy that could be used to treat Covid-19. In a paper published in the journal Nanoscale, [...]
Researchers have developed a new superbug-destroying coating that could be used on wound dressings and implants to prevent and treat potentially deadly bacterial and fungal infections. The material is one of the thinnest antimicrobial [...]
The U.S. is recommending a "pause" in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control [...]
The South African coronavirus variant is better at "breaking through" the defences of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine than other forms of the virus, Israeli experts said Sunday. However, one of the authors told AFP that [...]
EPFL scientists have developed AI-powered nanosensors that let researchers track various kinds of biological molecules without disturbing them. The tiny world of biomolecules is rich in fascinating interactions between a plethora of different agents [...]
A team of researchers from the Institute for Infectious Diseases (IFIK) at the University of Bern and the Federal Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI) have assessed virus growth and activation of the cellular [...]
Researchers at Brown University have succeeded in creating the first wireless, implantable, rechargeable, long-term brain-computer interface. The wireless BCIs have been implanted in pigs and monkeys for over 13 months without issue, and human [...]
The coronavirus outbreak made household names of companies like Moderna Inc. and BioNTech SE, whose shots offered hope for ending the pandemic. Now a new wave of vaccines is on the horizon that may get the [...]
Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a new way of using nanomaterials to identify and enrich skeletal stem cells—a discovery which could eventually lead to new treatments for major bone fractures and [...]
In March 2020, Hannu Rajaniemi pivoted his biotech company Helix Nanotechnologies' focus from cancer therapies to Covid-19 vaccines. The role biotech start-ups can play in a pandemic Rajaniemi originally co-founded Helix Nanotechnologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts in [...]
The rapid mass testing strategy costing just £1 a day per child can get children back to school and economies up and running, according to experts. That is the small price of the [...]
Covid-19 vaccines are incredibly good at preventing severe symptoms and hospitalization, but they’re probably less effective at stopping transmission. To do that, we might need a different kind of vaccine altogether. Because SARS-CoV-2 is [...]
For many scientists, challenging the idea that SARS-CoV-2 has natural origins is seen as career suicide. But a vocal few say it shouldn't be disregarded or lumped in with conspiracy theories. Nikolai Petrovsky was scrolling [...]