Dr Megan Ranney discovered a lot about the novel coronavirus since she started taking care of patients with the disease in the emergency department in February.
Still, there is one question that she doesn’t have the answer to yet – What makes some patients more affected by the disease than others?
Old age and unfavourable medical conditions explain part of the reason, according to Ranney, who saw patients of various ages, backgrounds, and health situations experience multiple outcomes.
“Why does one 40-year-old get really sick and another one not even need to be admitted?” asked Ranney, an associate emergency medicine professor at Brown University.
In some situations, provocative new research suggests that some patients, particularly men, succumb because their immune systems are attacking themselves!
Researchers hope that the discoveries will help them to create targeted therapies for the heavily affected patients.
An international study posted in Science showed that 10% of approximately one thousand coronavirus patients who experienced life-threatening pneumonia presented antibodies that fought immune system proteins named interferons.
Interferons, also called autoantibodies because they attack the body itself, weren’t present at all in 663 individuals with mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 infections.
Only four out of 1,227 healthy patients had autoantibodies.
The study was conducted by the Covid Human Genetic Effort, which spans across 200 research centres in 40 countries.
Dr Eric Topol, the executive vice president for research at Scripps Research in San Diego, stated:
“This is one of the most important things we’ve learned about the immune system since the start of the pandemic […] This is a breakthrough finding.”
Also, a follow-up study by the same team revealed that an extra 3.5% of the critically ill patients manifested mutations in genes that are responsible for the interferons’ control.