A new study by scientists at MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, has reportedly found that minor differences in an individual's genetic make-up might help explain the reason why some individuals establish a robust natural defense against a coronavirus infection, while others experience severe illness.
According to reliable sources, the new study has identified a specific protein-encoding gene known as OAS1, which is considered to play an important role in defining the early phases of a person’s immune response to Sars-CoV-2; the virus behind the Covid-19 infection.
When Covid-19 infects a human cell, the OAS1 protein is capable of detecting the virus's presence. It then springs into action, triggering a series of events that culminates in the activation of an RNA-neutralizing enzyme, which allows the cell to start destroying the virus's genetic material.
According to the study, which was published in the journal Science, some persons exhibit a more preventive variant of the gene OAS1 which has been ‘prenylated', which is the addition of a solitary lipid molecule to the protein transcribed by the OAS1 gene.
As coronaviruses hide themselves inside cells and reproduce their genomes in lipid-based vesicles, the prenylated OAS1 is more adapted to locating Sars-CoV-2 and directing the cellular armament to fight it.
The prenylated form of the gene was related to improved results from severe Covid-19 in hospitalized patients. Those who did not have it had worse clinical outcomes; ICU hospitalization or mortality was 1.6 times more frequent in these patients, the research stated.
The researchers also discovered that this protective gene was lost in horseshoe bats — one of the suspected origins of SARS-CoV-2 – around 55 million years ago.
As a result, the virus never needed to change to avoid this specific layer of defense, which is still effective in protecting some individuals.
However, if Sars-CoV-2 mutates and has the capacity to bypass the defenses created by the prenylated OAS1 protein, the virus has the capacity to become more lethal or transmissible.