Most studies on COVID, scientifically named SARS-CoV-2, conducted over the past two years have focused on patients who suffered severe symptoms or death. Looking further into the virus’ complexities, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco launched a study focusing on why some people are asymptomatic.
Dr. Jill Hollenbach, a UCSF professor of neurology, epidemiology, and biostatistics, conducted a study on a group of 1,400 people. Patients selected for the study were unvaccinated, tested positive for COVID, and experienced zero symptoms while infected.
Hollenbach and the research team analyzed each person’s DNA looking closely at a set of genes called HLA. They found a genetic mutation in HLA genes that fought off COVID so quickly, the person’s body never had enough time to develop symptoms. And while the mutation was not bulletproof, it raised a person’s chances of remaining asymptomatic times 10.
Hollenbach told KRON4, “My lab is interested in a set of genes called HLA. Those genes are pivotal immune response genes. We wondered if certain versions of these genes are more or less effective in helping folks to deal with COVID infection.”
The study’s hypothesis and preliminary findings were published as a preprint here. Hollenbach said the team is excited for their complete study to be published next month.
Researchers previously wondered, is there a genetic basis for so-called “COVID superdodgers,” people who are exposed to the virus but were never infected?
Hollenbach explained, “There has not been a lot of success in answering that question. Too many complications. But we can ask the question, once someone is infected, why is their disease course different? What is the immunological basis?”
COVID-positive patients who never felt even a sniffle shared a common gene mutation, HLA B 1501, researchers discovered. This gene was especially effective for waging a rapid immune response against COVID-19 using T cells previously generated from common colds.