Dr. Megan Ranney has learned a lot about Covid-19 since she began treating patients with the disease in the emergency department in February.
But there’s one question she still can’t answer: What makes some patients so much sicker than others?
Advancing age and underlying medical problems explain only part of the phenomenon, said Ranney, who has seen patients of similar age, background and health status follow wildly different trajectories.
“Why does one 40-year-old get really sick and another one not even need to be admitted?” asked Ranney, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Brown University.
In some cases, provocative new research shows, some people — men in particular — succumb because their immune systems are hit by friendly fire. Researchers hope the finding will help them develop targeted therapies for those patients.
In an international study in Science, 10 percent of nearly 1,000 Covid-19 patients who developed life-threatening pneumonia had antibodies that disable key immune system proteins called interferons. These antibodies — known as autoantibodies, because they attack the body itself — weren’t found at all in 663 people with mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 infections. Only four of 1,227 healthy patients had the autoantibodies. The study was led by the Covid Human Genetic Effort, which includes 200 research centers in 40 countries.
“This is one of the most important things we’ve learned about the immune system since the start of the pandemic,” said Dr. Eric Topol, executive vice president for research at Scripps Research in San Diego, who wasn’t involved in the new study. “This is a breakthrough finding.”
In a second Science study by the same team, the authors found that an additional 3.5 percent of critically ill patients had mutations in genes that control the interferons involved in fighting viruses. Given that the body has 500 to 600 of those genes, it’s possible that researchers will find more mutations, said Qian Zhang, lead author of the second study.
Interferons serve as the body’s first line of defense against infection, sounding the alarm and activating an army of virus-fighting genes, said virologist Angela Rasmussen, an associate research scientist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“Interferons are like a fire alarm and a sprinkler system all in one,” said Rasmussen, who wasn’t involved in the new studies.
Lab studies show that interferons are suppressed in some people with Covid-19, perhaps by the virus itself.
more recommended stories
2% of the Merida population has been infected with Covid-19
As of today, two percent of.
Mexican economy ended 2020 stronger than first estimated
MEXICO CITY, Feb 25 (Reuters) –.
Temperatures up to 35 degrees this Thursday in Yucatan
No chance of rain MÉRIDA, Yucatan.
Russian Sputnik V vaccine starts to be administered in Mexico
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities.
AMLO says Mexico doing better than the US on virus
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President.
Emma Coronel facing life in prison and 10 million USD fine
The wife of Mexican drug lord.
AMLO urges US authorities to provide more information on the Emma Coronel case
AMLO declared on Tuesday, Feb. 24th,.
Canine honored for improving the mental health of thousands of people
Max, a Springer Spaniel, became the.
AMLO says the UN is doing nothing to stop vaccine hoarding
The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel.
Governor inaugurates the Academic Laboratories for Innovation 4.0 at the UTM
Together with the mayor of Mérida,.