Even as countries all over the world ramp up their coronavirus testing capabilities, there’s no way of knowing just how many people have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. While many individuals develop symptoms and require hospitalization, it appears a significant amount can fend off the infection without incident. 

The scientists and doctors of the world are working at a fever pitch to try and form a full understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and how it interacts with our bodies. On that note, one of the biggest questions out there right now is why some people have a much harder time with the coronavirus than others. Now, a new study just released by the American Society for Microbiology is suggesting that genetic variations in people’s immune systems play a big role in explaining these case-by-case discrepancies. 

Essentially, the study found that some immune systems are less capable of recognizing the infection. This diminished ability to recognize the coronavirus can make a person more susceptible to developing symptoms in general, as well as more likely to experience severe symptoms that require hospitalization. 

The research team, from Oregon Health & Science University and the Portland VA Research Foundation, believe that HLA gene variations may make certain people more vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

“In particular, understanding how variation in HLA [a component of the immune system containing multiple genes] may affect the course of COVID-19 could help identify individuals at higher risk from the disease,” the study reads.

Their study indicates that several immune system gene variations associated with HLAs “likely influence” one’s ability to respond to a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Moreover, it was noted that some alternative HLA gene forms appear to be linked to particularly severe manifestations of the coronavirus in certain patients. A similar conclusion had been drawn in the past regarding severe cases of the original SARS virus that emerged in China back in 2002, so these findings are not completely without precedent.

Medical reference: The Ladders