Have you ever wondered why some people never became sick from COVID-19? A study published today in Nature shows that common genetic variation among people is responsible for mediating SARS-CoV-2 asymptomatic infection. The results indicate that individuals having this variant never feel sick once infected. This exciting discovery was a result of a U.S.-Australia collaborative work led by Danillo Augusto, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Jill Hollenbach, Ph.D., professor at the University of California San Francisco; and Stephanie Gras, professor at La Trobe University in Australia.
The study focuses on a group of genes called human leukocyte antigens (HLA). These HLA genes code for proteins used by the immune system to identify your healthy cells and distinguish them from those infected by bacteria and viruses. The HLA system is critical for immune response and also highly variable among individuals. Because of the role of HLAs in fighting infection, the researchers wondered if there were specific variants that would make us more protected or susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 virus.