This gene can protect you from mutant coronavirus strains

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Dec 29, 2020, 09:06 AM(IST)

FILE Photograph:( Reuters )

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There might be some respite for people carrying a particular gene

New variants of coronavirus have brought in new fears surrounding the spread of the virus, the initial variant of which still continues to infect people globally. The first variant, which was spotted in Britain last week is reportedly more infectious, but not more fatal. Vaccine makers rushed in to claim that the vaccines which are being rolled out across the globe will continue to offer protection from such variants. Since then, a few strains have popped up, one reportedly from South Africa.

According to a research published on medRxiv on Sunday pending peer review, the new British variant is linked to higher loads of the virus in one's blood. According to the study, 35 per cent people who had been infected with the new variant carried high loads of virus in the blood, as compared to 10 per cent who were not infected by the variant. The study was undertaken by Public Health England and Birmingham University, as reported by Reuters.

Naturally, higher loads of the virus mean deadlier outcomes for patients. Even though more research is needed to ascertain the intensity of the variant, it could help scientists understand how the virus replicates itself among patients.

Also read: South Korea steps up vaccine efforts after detecting coronavirus variant from UK

Even then, there might be some respite for people carrying a particular gene - the Neanderthal gene.

A particular protein which was passed on by Neanderthals helps protect people from the mutant strain. The protein in question is called OAS1, and is involved in how the body responds to COVID-19. People carrying this gene are less susceptible to hospitalisation, intubation, and death, the researchers found.

According to the co-author of the study Brent Richards from the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University in Montreal, the gene protects against the mutant variant. Richards told Reuters that the gene was present in sub-Saharan Africans but was momentarily lost when people migrated out of Africa into Europe. It was recovered when the population mated with Neanderthals.

Also read: 'Not true': South Africa denies new variant is deadlier than UK's strain

The speed at which patients produce antibodies defines the severity of the virus in an individual, as opposed to how many antibodies they produce.

Researchers who studied 200 coronavirus patients out of which 179 were hospitalised found that those who were able to produce antibodies within 14 days of developing symptoms were eventually able to recover, as opposed to those who were unable to produce antibodies and had higher viral loads, and naturally a more severe case.

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