Scientists and Doctors are discovering new facts about Coronavirus every single day. Initially, it was believed that the virus mostly effects those whose immunity is compromised like senior citizens, but with the increase of deaths in younger people, the doctors studying the disease are stumped.
Dr.Usama Riaz, who was only 26 years of age, with no underlying medical conditions, passed away after contracting coronavirus. He was part of a 10 member team, who were responsible for screening entries coming from Tehran. While constant exposure to the virus did not help his case, his age and good health should have saved him from untimely death, yet this was not the case.
It has become clear that the young and healthy are by no means immune to this infection and could become sick enough to require hospitalization.
In an early snapshot from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for 2,449 patients whose age was known, 18% were between age 45 and 54, and 29% were between 20 and 44 years old. Among those who were hospitalized, 18% were ages 45 to 54 and 20% were ages 20 to 44.
Younger people are far less likely to die, but there is an unusual pattern that seems to be emerging. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become one of the most recognizable names in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, discusses what makes the coronavirus such an “unusual disease.”
“I’m fascinated,” he said, ” … by what I would call the pathogenesis.”
“You know, you get so many people who do well and then some people who just, bingo, they’re on a respirator, they’re on ECMO (a cardio-pulmonary machine) and they’re dead,” Fauci stated on a recent podcast interview.
“I mean, the dichotomy between that, there’s something there that we’re missing from a pathogenesis standpoint. And I don’t think it’s only if you’re elderly or if you have underlying conditions. There’s something else going on there that hopefully we’ll ultimately figure out.”
Scientists and researchers wonder if the answer could lie in our genes and are beginning to try and understand what differentiates people who get mild cases from those who die.
Doctors and researchers are currently studying three possibilities to explain the cause behind younger deaths:
1. ACE2 Gene
ACE2 is an enzyme that attaches to the outer surface of cells in the lungs, as well as the heart. In an article in Science magazine, Immunologist Dr. Philip Murphy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that “variations in the ACE2 gene that alter the receptor could make it easier or harder for the virus to get into lung cells.”
It is also possible that a critical ingredient produced by the body, surfactant, which better allows the lungs to expand and contract, becomes depleted in some patients infected with the coronavirus. If you think of your lungs as a sponge, surfactant would be the detergent which would make them soft and pliable. Without surfactant, however, your lung becomes stiff and hard to squeeze. It may be why some patients continue to struggle even on a breathing machine.
3. Immune System Responses
In some young, healthy people, a very reactive immune system could lead to a massive inflammatory storm that could overwhelm the lungs and other organs. In those cases, it is not an aged or weakened immune system that is the problem — it is one that works too well. Some front line clinicians have speculated that is why steroids, an immune system suppressant, seem to offer benefit in some people.
For now, no matter your age or underlying condition, the advice remains the same. Stay home, wash your hands and reduce your virus exposure as much as possible. Even if you do develop mild symptoms, it is probably best to stay home to recover.