People who have never been infected with the coronavirus can teach us more about the coronavirus

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When her partner tested positive for the coronavirus for two days Before Christmas, Michelle Green feared that she might get sick too. She was two months pregnant with her second child. He was a bartender at the time and some of him co-workers became infected.

“I told him to go into the living room and not leave,” said Green, a 40-year-old project manager. retail technology Getting started in the area. The couple and their baby postponed Christmas. Either way, Green has never been tested positive.

Scientists around the world have been studying how a declining number of people like Green have escaped the coronavirus for more than two years, even after the record-breaking omicron variant reached a record high this winter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most Americans have been infected with the new coronavirus since it began spreading in the United States in early 2020.

Experts hope that studying people who have been exposed to the infection, perhaps hidden in their genes, can help prevent others from becoming infected or treating them more effectively. infected.

Among those who have not been vaccinated, the deaths from Covid have become less prevalent as the number of elderly people increases.

“What we’re looking for are very rare genetic variants that have the potential to have a huge impact on humans,” said Andras Spaan, a clinical microbiologist and researcher at Rockefeller University in New York, who is leading the search for genetic material. responsible for the stability of the coronavirus.

According to Span, an international study has already registered 700 participants and more than 5,000 people have been immunized against coronavirus infection.

One of the participants in the study was 49-year-old Bevin Strickland, an anesthesiologist nurse in Highpoint, NC. He volunteered at Queens Hospital For six weeks from April 2020, it became the epicenter of the New York pocket pandemic.

“On the second day, I didn’t even think about getting a covid infection because the patients were in pain,” Strickland said, working face-to-face to better communicate with confusing patients.

Most of the worst cases were elderly people living in nursing homes. Some did not speak English. Many suffer from shortness of breath and lack of oxygen.

“I always took off my mask so they could see my face,” Strickland said. “It helps us [an oxygen] put a mask on them and help them heal. ”

Strickland was tested weekly for coronavirus. It has never been tested positive. Upon completion of his volunteer service, he passed an antibody test, which showed evidence of a previous infection.

Neither Strickland’s parents nor his twin sister have the virus. Even after he and one of his twin sons managed to escape the disease after a 1,200-square-foot home was hardened by a covid infection, Strickland began to suspect that he had a natural immunity to the virus. Thus, he sought scientific research into the genetic makeup of people like him who had never been infected with the coronavirus, despite the fact that it had been repeated several times.

“I really hope they see some similarities, some genes in our DNA,” Strickland said.

Jennifer Nuzzo, a professor of epidemiology at Brown University’s School of Public Affairs, said studying the genes and other biological traits of people who have never been infected with the coronavirus could shed light on how the virus develops or how it infects and infects humans. Health. Research could lead to better medications and public health advice.

Researchers do not know why some people may be resistant to the coronavirus, but Nuzzo said a hypothesis is that some people may have fewer receptors for the virus to bind in their noses, throats and lungs. Other possible explanations may be the birth of a immune system that is better suited to fight SARS-CoV-2 or the prevention of the associated virus.

However, it is difficult to find people who have an asymptomatic infection or who have had a mild case of COVID-19 and who have never been infected with the virus, and who have never had a coronavirus infection.

“These people should be very rare in the United States,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who helped develop models that assess the prevalence of the virus.

According to Murray, the IHME models suggest that the number of people infected with the coronavirus in the United States may be higher than the latest CDC estimate. The CDC said 6 out of 10 Americans have been infected with the virus at least once; IHME estimates that close to 76 percent of the total U.S. population.

Antibody tests can rule out people with an immune response to the virus, but some of those tests can’t tell the difference between people with the virus. There are antibodies to vaccines and those against coronavirus, Murray said. He added that the accuracy of many antibody tests decreases over time, so they cannot identify a person who became infected a few months ago.

“It’s an unattainable goal,” Murray said.

After scientists found people fleeing a coronavirus infection, the next The challenge is to figure out how they do it.

Since masks, vaccines, and social exclusion can significantly reduce the risk of infection, these factors can eliminate any biological differences between people who are not infected and those who are tested positive.

Mutations in the virus do not slow down. The new omicron subvariant proves this.

James McClellan is one of the lucky people to have escaped the coronavirus so far.

Late in the afternoon, the 52-year-old was one of the few people wearing a mask at the Union Market in the district where Banana Flower Bistro works. Taking precautions such as masking and vaccination are part of McClellan’s belief that he escaped a positive test. But he also thinks he may have a naturally strong immune system.

“I’ve always stood up to things like that,” McClellan said. “I haven’t had the flu since 1992. Viruses don’t stick to me. ”

In the early days of the pandemic, McClellan worked to deliver food to about 6,000 elderly people in the area, many of whom eventually contracted the coronavirus and some. from whom died.

McClellan thinks that if he had contracted the coronavirus, it would have been because of his close association. adults. He did not want to spread the virus to vulnerable people, so he was tested regularly. His tests were always negative.

Many people who have not been infected do not fully understand how they escaped the infection – some believe that they will eventually become infected.

“It has to be a combination of caution, circumstance and success,” said Bob Wachter, a professor and head of the medical department at the University of California, San Francisco, who has no coronavirus.

People who wear masks in closed public spaces, are aware of vaccines and boosters, get tested more often, and avoid dangerous gatherings or travel may be less likely to become infected, Wachter said. In some areas, low levels of community or the ability to work from home may protect some people better than others, he said.

Lana Erickson, head of the DC think tank, has taken many steps against the pandemic to reduce the risk of its impact. He traveled to Amtrak and Richmond three times a week, where his partner lives with his two children. During the pandemic, Erickson bought a car to avoid traveling with people who had covids. He worked virtually and recently returned to the office for occasional meetings. He wears a mask when he goes to work. He was fully vaccinated.

Erickson and his partner have been tested many times in the last two years, but the results have been negative. Waiting for home test results is “dangerous,” Erickson said. “Are you out of this line without looking at it?” you think. ”

Occasionally he sniffs the laundry to see if he still has a sense of smell.

“It drove us all crazy,” Erickson said with a laugh.

In the past Christmas, when the omicron variant intensified, Both of his partner’s 12- and 14-year-old children passed a positive test. However, Erickson and his partner remained coronavirus-free and never became ill. They spent Christmas socially – gifts were wiped off with disinfectants and left on the doorstep.

Erickson, 40, said: “It’s a very bad thing. Compared to the friends I got it from, I don’t think I’ve done anything special that I can’t get it. They’ve been doing very similar things.”

His friends and colleagues warned him that everyone will eventually lead Covid.

“I’m fine, but I still don’t want it,” Erickson said. “And I don’t want to give it to anyone.”

Another rare virus puzzle: They got sick, were treated, and got covid again

Experts say another way for people who have never been infected with the coronavirus to enter their homes is through research. Individuals, such as health care workers and professional athletes, had to be tested regularly during a pandemic.

“If you’re a practicing physician, there’s no way you’re going to be unaffected,” Murray said. He is a global health researcher at the University of Washington.

During the worst of the Covidian Waves, James Park saw 12 to 18 Covid patients a day at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, where he worked as a physician and associate professor of clinical medicine. Anxiety was especially prevalent in the early days, when little was known about the coronavirus. There was an eight-step protocol for leaving the patient’s room and changing protective equipment.

“You went out and felt radioactive,” Park said. “It’s like there’s an infected cloud around you.”

After the shift, Park bathed at work, swapped a clean scrub to go home, and bathed again before greeting his wife and three children. One day, Park fell ill and was examined. He had to be away from work for a week while he waits for the result. she is the camera is negative.

In the first 18 months of the pandemic, the park will be tested a dozen more times, and despite the fact that some of its colleagues became infected with the virus, it has never passed a positive test. All the tests at home were negative. Park said he believes his employer is taking precautions to ensure the safety of leading workers.

At home, he and his family took security seriously. They always wore masks only two or three times in public places and even in restaurants. From time to time, they visited friends at outdoor meetings. Like many Americans, they bought a fireplace for backyard meetings. Masked mandates have expired in schools visited by park children, but her children continue to wear masks at home. Everyone in the family is vaccinated.

As of the end of April, no one in the family had passed the positive test. But Park didn’t think it would last long.

“I told my wife we’ll get it someday,” he said. “I think so. It will definitely happen. ”

Park was right. One of her children passed a positive test on Tuesday.

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