COVID: The Group At Higher Risk Of Catching It Twice

COVID-19 reinfection is possible and some are at higher risk.

COVID-19 reinfection is possible and some are at higher risk.

If you are under the age of 65 and have had COVID-19 then most likely you are protected from catching it twice, at least for six months after the infection.

But those aged 65 years and older are at higher risk of getting the disease again.

According to a new study, the protection against repeat infection among adults 65 years and older is 47 percent while for younger people it is 80 percent.

The study also found that immunity and protection will last at least six months after infection.

Dr Daniela Michlmayr, the study’s co-author, said:

“In our study, we did not identify anything to indicate that protection against reinfection declines within six months of having COVID-19.

The closely related coronaviruses SARS and MERS have both been shown to confer immune protection against reinfection lasting up to three years, but ongoing analysis of COVID-19 is needed to understand its long-term effects on patients’ chances of becoming infected again.”

The study analysed COVID test data on 4 million people in Denmark from March to December 2020.

It shows that most people who recovered from COVID infection were protected against reinfection, only 0.65 percent returned positive tests, meaning about 1 in 200 people tested positive for COVID twice.

Seniors are more susceptible to coronavirus reinfection as generally aging is a key factor in the severity of the disease.

Dr Steen Ethelberg, study co-author, said:

“Our study confirms what a number of others appeared to suggest: reinfection with COVID-19 is rare in younger, healthy people, but the elderly are at greater risk of catching it again.

Since older people are also more likely to experience severe disease symptoms, and sadly die, our findings make clear how important it is to implement policies to protect the elderly during the pandemic.

Given what is at stake, the results emphasise how important it is that people adhere to measures implemented to keep themselves and others safe, even if they have already had COVID-19.

Our insights could also inform policies focused on wider vaccination strategies and the easing of lockdown restrictions.”

Due to the limitation of clinical information it is not clear yet if the severity of COVID symptoms influences patients’ protection from catching it again.

The study was published in The Lancet (Hansen et al., 2021).

Pandemic Psychology: How COVID Changed Us And How We Coped With It

What the pandemic did to us and how we learned to cope with it.

The psychology studies that reveal what the pandemic did to us and how we learned to cope with it.

The pandemic has turned our mental worlds upside down — not to mention the physical.

First it made us hoarders, then gave us new social rules to follow.

Soon we were working from home, feeling the pressure on our relationships, accompanied by mental health problems and strange dreams.

And still it goes on.

Slowly we learned to cope, by staying in touch with our emotions, doing meaningful activities, accessing nature whenever possible, turning to our partners for comfort (should we be lucky enough to have one) and getting help online when it was all too much.

Here is PsyBlog’s guide to the major psychology studies of the pandemic.

A. How COVID changed us

1. Hoarders

First it turned people into hoarders: some stashed cash under the mattress, others hand sanitiser and masks.

But it was the hoarding of toilet roll that really caught the headlines.

But why toilet roll?

Some psychologist think it was partly down to herding — in other words, people saw others hoarding it and then copied each other (Baddeley, 2020).

In the end we are social creatures and we partly learn by copying, especially when under stress.

2. Learn new social rules

To fight the pandemic, we had to learn a load of new social rules: when to go out, stay at home, wear a mask, how to greet each other and when and where to walk, run and travel.

Who followed the rules and what influenced them, psychologists asked.

Research found that people are more likely to follow COVID restrictions when their friends and family do.

Social influence was a more powerful motivator than whether or not people agreed with the rules.

The findings underline the tremendous power of social influence on people’s behaviour.

3. Why people flout the rules

In the absence of other people to copy, though, we have to rely on our own memories which, it turns out are not great.

People with better memories followed all the rules, but those with worse memories tended to forget, one study found (Xie, 2020).

Similarly, worrying about money, jobs and where the next meal is coming from also limit people’s ability to follow all the rules (Probst et al., 2020).

There’s even evidence that people started taking more risks during the pandemic and are more prone to punishing others as a result of reduced cognitive capacity (Bogliacino et al., 2021).

Professor Francisco Lupiáñez, study co-author, said:

“People’s decision-making abilities were impaired, and their reactions were not those we might have expected.

Instead of being more careful because they were in a pandemic, they were taking risks, because they couldn’t take it any more.”

4. Anxious and depressed

Quite naturally the pandemic made a lot of us depressed and anxious.

One study found that one-in-three adults are anxious and depressed as a result of quarantines, lockdowns and social distancing.

But some groups are suffering more.

Women, young people and the poor are experiencing the worst psychological distress from COVID, research from 68 studies found.

Another study suggested that 80 percent of people in their 20s in the U.S. are experiencing significant depressive symptoms (Horigian et al., 2020).

Along with increased depression and anxiety, people are experiencing higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia.

Interestingly, the old have fared better emotionally compared to younger people.

That is despite the fact that older people are more at risk from the virus (Klaiber et al., 2020).

Mr Patrick Klaiber, the study’s first author, explained:

“Younger and middle-aged adults are faced with family- and work-related challenges, such as working from home, homeschooling children and unemployment.

They are also more likely to experience different types of ongoing non-pandemic stressors than older adults, such as interpersonal conflicts.”

The personality type faring the worst during the pandemic is, unsurprisingly, people high in neuroticism.

And the personality type ‘enjoying’ the pandemic?


5. Working from home

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to people’s lives is the accelerating trend towards working from home.

The challenges people face working from home are well-known and include a loss of social connectedness, lack of separation between work-life and home-life and increased risk of substance abuse (Kniffin et al., 2020).

There are advantages as well, of course, but periods of dramatic change like this are bound to be stressful for people.

Whether people will go back to the office and how these changes will play out over the coming years, we just do not know.

6. Relationship strain

The pandemic put tremendous strain on people’s relationships.

With schools shut, parents suddenly had to take on more childcare responsibilities.

Women did more than their fair share, research from the U.S. has found (Shockley et al., 2020).

That was bad for relationships, explained Dr Kristen Shockley, the study’s first author:

“When the wife does it all, not surprisingly, the outcomes are bad for the couple.

It’s not just bad for the wife, it’s also bad for the husband, including in terms of job performance although his work role presumably hasn’t changed.

When one person’s doing it all, there’s a lot of tension in the relationship, and it’s probably spilling over into the husband’s ability to focus at work.”

7. Upsetting dreams

The pandemic has not just changed people’s days, it has warped their nights as well, infecting our dreams.

The most common bad dreams are worrying about failures in social distancing, forgetting to wear a mask, getting the disease itself and even the end of the world.

Bad dreams may be one way for the brain to process and so reduce the fear related to the virus.

Once again, though, it is women that are having the worst of the pandemic, suffering more bad dreams than men (Schredl & Bulkeley, 2020).

B. How we coped with COVID

The keys to keeping psychologically healthy are similar whether or not there is a pandemic.

Eating right, exercising and the rest will help at any time, but there are some factors that are particularly relevant during the pandemic.

Here are a few of them:

8. Stay in touch with emotions

Staying in touch with your emotions is a good way to deal with COVID-19 stress.

It is natural to experience emotions like sadness, fear, loneliness and anxiety during the pandemic.

However, people who are psychologically flexible tend to do better.

Flexibility means acknowledging emotions, accepting them and taking whatever action is possible.

Continuing to do whatever is important to you — even if it is in modified form — is key to reducing stress.

9. Meaningful activities

Meaningful activities are central to boosting happiness while social distancing and lockdown rules are in effect.

In contrast, keeping busy just for the sake of it does not boost happiness.

Indeed, mindless busywork tends to leave people feeling unsatisfied and unsettled.

It is better to continue with activities that were enjoyable before the pandemic, as far as possible.

When people took up novelty lockdown activities, like baking and painting, just to keep busy, this was linked to more extreme emotions.

Incidentally, people who feel life has less purpose tend to sleep worse, research finds.

This could be one of the reasons that people report sleeping worse during the current pandemic.

During lockdown people are denied many of the usual routines that give meaning to life, such as work, meeting with friends and pursuing recreational activities.

Without these, life becomes devoid of purpose.

10. Nature

Access to nature is vital for surviving the pandemic.

People who are able to get out into nature are less likely to suffer depression and anxiety during lockdown.

Even a natural view from inside can help to ameliorate the effects of COVID-19 related policies.

Pandemic or not, green and blue spaces have a remarkable healing effect on people’s mental health.

11. Partners for comfort

People’s partners provide the best buffer against social disconnection due to the pandemic.

Romantic partners help keep each other’s well-being from taking a knock from social isolation.

In contrast, chatting with friends on Facetime and any number of children and pets have little effect on making people feel socially connected.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how big your household is, it’s all down to the quality of the connection.

The research affirms the importance of romantic partners for mental well-being.

12. Get help online

Like everything else nowadays, psychology went online.

People are going online to get help and psychologists are going online to give it.

The number of clinical psychologists helping people online has gone up 12-fold, one recent study found (Pierce et al., 2020).

Mr Brad Pierce, the study’s first author, said:

“I was shocked to see how quickly telepsychology was adopted.

The shift from 7% of clinical work to more than 85% represents a lot of heavy lifting in a very short time.

There was a concerted effort among the community to identify and remove long-standing barriers.

Psychologists sought out additional training, equipment was purchased, and policies were adjusted at every level to facilitate telehealth and telepsychology.”


One Dose Of COVID Vaccine Is Enough For Some People

Some people may not need a second dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Some people may not need a second dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

One dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine is enough for those who have already recovered from the infection, a new study reveals.

A person with previous exposure to COVID has a much better response to a single shot compared to uninfected individuals.

This due to the immune memory and higher levels of antibody production.

The fact that the second dose for COVID survivors is not needed could be a sensible option to stretch the vaccine supply.

Furthermore, individuals with prior COVID infection could be rescued from side-effects of a second dose which are likely to be stronger than the first shot.

Professor Viviana Simon, study co-author, said:

“We showed that the antibody response to the first vaccine dose in people with pre-existing immunity is equal to or even exceeds the response in uninfected people after the second dose.

For that reason, we believe that a single dose of vaccine is sufficient for people who have already been infected by SARS-CoV-2 to reach immunity.”

After the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2020, millions of Americans have received one of the vaccines.

These vaccines have been reported to be highly effective against COVID infections after the second shot, with at least three weeks in between doses.

The two vaccines are well-tolerated for most people, showing no serious side effects, however, in some cases extra medical care is needed.

For this study, a group of adults with previous COVID infection were compared with another group who had no pre-existing immunity.

Within days after the first dose of vaccine, those with a history of COVID infection developed antibodies 10 to 20 times more than uninfected people.

In some cases the level of immunity was even higher than those uninfected people who received two doses of vaccine.

Professor Florian Krammer, the study’s first author, said:

“These findings suggest that a single dose of vaccine elicits a very rapid immune response in individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

In fact, that first dose immunologically resembles the booster (second) dose in people who have not been infected.”

The research team have also compared the adverse reactions after vaccination.

Both groups displayed symptoms such as swelling, pain, and skin redness after the first injection.

However, subjects with pre-existing immunity were more likely to experience headaches, fever, chills, fatigue, joint pain, and muscle aches than the other group.

The adverse effects to the first dose in subjects with pre-existing immunity were as severe as uninfected people experienced from the second shot.

The strong reaction is probably because the immune cells are already familiar with the virus’s spike protein and therefore the immune cell response is much stronger to the vaccine.

According to Professor Simon, a serological assay can be used to detect existing antibodies in a person that has already been infected so the booster dose can be avoided.

She said:

“If the screening process determines the presence of antibodies due to previous infection, then a second shot of the coronavirus vaccine may not be necessary for the individual.

And if that approach were to translate into public health policy, it could not only expand limited vaccine supplies, but control the more frequent and pronounced reactions to those vaccines experienced by COVID-19 survivors.”

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Krammer et al., 2021).

Pfizer COVID Vaccine Is 94% Effective In Real-World Study

The vaccine also greatly reduces the chance of passing on the virus to others.

The vaccine also greatly reduces the chance of passing on the virus to others.

Real-world data from 1.2 million people in Israel confirms that the Pfizer vaccine is 94 percent effective against COVID after the second dose.

It gives further hope that mass immunization will end the pandemic.

The vaccine also gives strong protection against the infection since it greatly reduces the chance of passing on the virus to others.

Dr Benjamin Neuman, a virologist from Texas A&M University, commented on this study:

“The fact that the vaccines worked so well in the real world… really does suggest that if the nations of the world can find the will, we now have the means to end COVID-19 forever.”

The research covers a period from December 2020 to February 2021 when a new SARS-CoV-2 variant was first seen in England and then was detected in different countries, including Israel.

To ensure the Pfizer vaccine’s reliability and its effectiveness on the new variant, every single vaccinated person was matched to an unvaccinated person who was in the control group.

The participants in the control group shared some similarities such as sex, geographic area, age, and medical conditions with those who had been vaccinated.

The results from 14 to 20 days after the first dose suggest at least a 57 percent effectiveness for symptomatic infection and 62 percent for severe COVID.

However, for the second dose seven days after injection the efficacy was increased to 94 percent for symptomatic COVID and 92 percent for severe disease.

Moreover, the outcomes from 7 days after the second dose suggest an 87 percent effectiveness against hospitalization.

Regarding different variants of the virus, the vaccine proved to be highly effective as those who received their second injection were 92 percent less likely to become infected with any strains of coronavirus than unvaccinated people.

Despite these promising outcomes, experts believe more evidence is needed due to participants not being tested systemically.

Dr Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, explained:

“Unless you are testing everyone all the time, this will miss some infections.

Nailing down this number more precisely will require specialized study designs with frequent testing.”

However, she is sure that the vaccine provides strong protective benefit.

Another study suggests that a single shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine gives people 90 percent protection three weeks after injection.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Dagan et al., 2021).

Moderna Vaccine Side-Effects Can Include A Skin Rash

Delayed hypersensitivity after the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is often seen in drug reactions.

Delayed hypersensitivity after the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is often seen in drug reactions.

Some people are having delayed skin reactions after the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and scientists have called for more awareness.

While day-by-day larger population are receiving a vaccination for COVID-19, more studies are coming out featuring new or extended side-effects of the injection.

(Here are the common side-effects of the Moderna vaccine.)

Communicating them to the public helps stop them being afraid of getting the vaccine.

A report on phase 3 clinical data from the Moderna vaccine trial shows that 244 of the 30,420 participants experienced delayed skin reaction after the first dose.

The research team pointed out that clinicians need to prepare their patients for possible side-effects of the first dose including large, red, sometimes raised, itchy or painful skin reactions.

Dr Kimberly Blumenthal, the study’s first author, said:

“Whether you’ve experienced a rash at the injection site right away or this delayed skin reaction, neither condition should prevent you from getting the second dose of the vaccine.

Our immediate goal is to make physicians and other care providers aware of this possible delayed reaction, so they are not alarmed, but instead well-informed and equipped to advise their patients accordingly.”

The paper provides a series of photos on patients with the delayed skin hypersensitivity to the Moderna vaccine.

The severity and size of the reactions varied widely and symptoms include localized rashes on the arm, papules (raised bumps on the skin) on the palm and fingers, edematous plaques (abnormal swelling with fluid), and targetoid lesions.

The adverse reactions began from four days after the first dose to 11 days following vaccination.

The majority were treated with antihistamines and ice but some patients received corticosteroid treatment either orally, topically or both.

However, one case was wrongly treated with antibiotics, Dr Erica Shenoy, study co-author, explained:

“Delayed cutaneous hypersensitivity could be confused—by clinicians and patients alike—with a skin infection.

These types of reactions, however, are not infectious and thus should not be treated with antibiotics.”

These patients recovered from the adverse effects on average 6 days after symptoms occurred.

About half of the patients had recurring reactions two days after receiving the second dose.

However, none of these experienced any worse reaction regarding the second dose than the first injection.

The skin-biopsy test in this study showed a delayed type hypersensitivity immune response which is often seen in reactions to drugs.

Dr Esther Freeman, study co-author,

“For most people who are experiencing this, we believe it’s tied to the body’s immune system going to work.

Overall, this data is reassuring and should not discourage people from getting the vaccine.”

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Blumenthal et al., 2021).

Partners Make People Feel Connected — Not Children, Pets Or Video Calls

Children, pets, video calls with friends and even working outside the house did nothing to increase people’s sense of social connection during the pandemic.

Children, pets, video calls with friends and even working outside the house did nothing to increase people’s sense of social connection during the pandemic.

People’s partners provide the best buffer against social disconnection due to the pandemic, new research finds.

Romantic partners help keep each other’s well-being from taking a knock from social isolation.

In contrast, chatting with friends on Facetime and any number of children and pets have little effect on making people feel socially connected.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how big your household is, it’s all down to the quality of the connection.

The research affirms the importance of romantic partners for mental well-being.

Ms Karynna Okabe-Miyamoto, the study’s first author, said:

“Research prior to the pandemic has long shown that partners are one of the strongest predictors of social connection and well-being.

And our research during the current COVID-19 pandemic has shown the same.

Living with a partner uniquely buffered declines in social connection during the early phases of the pandemic.”

For the study, almost 1,000 people in Canada and the UK answered questions about their feelings of social connectedness both before and during the pandemic.

They rated statements like:

  • “I felt close and connected with other people who are important to me.”
  • “People are around me, but not with me.”

People living with romantic partners gave higher ratings to their levels of social connection after social distancing measures took hold, the results showed.

However, children, pets, video calls with friends and even working outside the house did nothing to increase people’s sense of social connection.

The authors write:

“Living with a partner — but not how many people or who else one lives with — appeared to confer benefit during these uncertain and unprecedented times.”

How to deal with pandemic stress

The four most common strategies people are using to deal with the pandemic are:

  • checking in with loved ones,
  • increased exercise,
  • limiting news exposure,
  • and performing acts of kindness.

→ Read on: the best ways to deal with COVID stress and what social distancing does to brain and body.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Okabe-Miyamoto et al., 2021).

‘Long COVID’ Partly Explained By Gut Changes, Study Suggests

‘Long COVID’ symptoms include ongoing fatigue, joint pains and breathlessness many months after the acute phase of the disease is over.

‘Long COVID’ symptoms include ongoing fatigue, joint pains and breathlessness many months after the acute phase of the disease is over.

The novel coronavirus may cause an imbalance in gut bacteria which is partly responsible for ‘long COVID’, new research finds.

Long COVID symptoms include ongoing fatigue, joint pains and breathlessness many months after the acute phase of the disease is over.

Patients who have had COVID also have poor gut microbiome composition and changes in bacterial diversity.

The gut may have a part in lasting inflammatory symptoms after the infection has gone.

Past studies have suggested that the gut and its microorganisms can alter the immune system response.

For the present study, researchers collected the blood and stool samples of 100 hospitalised COVID patients and 78 non-COVID adults.

COVID severity in patients was identified as:

  • mild if the X-ray showed no evidence of pneumonia,
  • moderate if pneumonia with fever and respiratory tract symptoms were detected,
  • severe if patients had serious breathing problems,
  • and critical if they needed mechanical ventilation or had organ failure ending to intensive care.

The results showed a large difference in the composition of the gut microbiota between patients with and without COVID.

The number of Ruminococcus torques, Bacteroides dorei, and Ruminococcus gnavus spices was higher in COVID patients than those with no infection.

In contrast, COVID patients had lower amounts of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Eubacterium rectale, and Bifidobacterium adolescentis, which are beneficial bacteria for the immune system.

The illness was more severe in patients with lower level of Bifidobacterium bifidum and F. prausnitzii (an anti-inflammatory bacterium).

The immune cells secrete inflammatory cytokines in reaction to the virus but sometimes they overreact causing cytokine storms.

Hypercytokinemia or cytokine storm syndrome is a life-threatening condition that can lead to septic shock, damage to the body’s tissues, and lung failure.

Also, the microbial imbalance in patients with COVID was linked to high levels of inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker.

The authors wrote:

“In light of reports that a subset of recovered patients with COVID-19 experience persistent symptoms, such as fatigue, dyspnoea [breathlessness] and joint pains, some over 80 days after initial onset of symptoms, we posit that the dysbiotic gut microbiome could contribute to immune-related health problems post-COVID-19.”

According to another study, leaky gut syndrome is another condition that enables the COVID virus to get through the surface of internal organs and the digestive tract, making the infection worse.

The authors added:

“Bolstering of beneficial gut species depleted in COVID-19 could serve as a novel avenue to mitigate severe disease, underscoring the importance of managing patients’ gut microbiota during and after COVID-19.”

One study has suggested the use of a probiotic formula to address gut dysbiosis in order to enhance immune defence against viral infections such as COVID.

The study was published in the journal GUT (Yeoh et al., 2021).

A Possible Antiviral Treatment for COVID Discovered

An antiviral drug promising to be highly effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

An antiviral drug promising to be highly effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

An antiviral extracted from a plant known as ‘the deadly carrot’ could help in the fight against COVID, new research finds.

The antiviral, called Thapsigargin, is extracted from the Thapsia garganica plant.

The extract might significantly shift the way the coronavirus pandemic is manged.

Thapsigargin has a broad-spectrum antiviral effect, with the ability to block different types of viruses and be effective against a wide range of micro-organisms.

A new study reveals that thapsigargin treatment is extremely effective against the influenza A virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), common cold coronaviruses, and COVID-19

A variety of viruses can cause acute respiratory virus infections, but they are clinically identical.

The possibility of making a powerful broad-spectrum antiviral drug widely available would curb infection and prevent its spread.

When the research team looking for options they noticed that taking small amounts of thapsigargin generates a very effective innate immune antiviral responses against SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses.

The reasons that makes this plant-derived product a favourable antiviral are as follow:

  • It isn’t broken down by stomach acid so it can be administered orally instead of by injection.
  • If taken during early infection, it disrupts the virus which gives antibodies and cell-mediated immunity a chance to get ready.
  • If exposed to a virus for 30 minutes, then the virus can’t reproduce itself for at least 48 hours.
  • Several hundred times more powerful than other antiviral products.
  • Viruses usually mutate to become resistant to a treatment, but this doesn’t work for thapsigargin.
  • It blocks combined infection with flu and SARS-CoV-2 as effectively as infection with one virus.
  • Thapsigargin is safe as it has been used for treating prostate cancer.

Professor Kin-Chow Chang, the study’s senior author, said:

“Whilst we are still at the early stages of research into this antiviral and its impact on how viruses such as COVID-19 can be treated, these findings are hugely significant.

The current pandemic highlights the need for effective antivirals to treat active infections, as well as vaccines, to prevent the infection.

Given that future pandemics are likely to be of animal origin, where animal to human (zoonotic) and reverse zoonotic (human to animal) spread take place, a new generation of antivirals, such as thapsigargin, could play a key role in the control and treatment of important viral infections in both humans and animals.

Although more testing is clearly needed, current findings strongly indicate that thapsigargin and its derivatives are promising antiviral treatments against COVID-19 and influenza virus, and have the potential to defend us against the next Disease X pandemic.”

The study was published in the journal Viruses (Al-Beltagi et al., 2021).

Why Men Are More Likely To Die Of COVID

The reason men’s lives are in greater danger than women from the coronavirus.

The reason men’s lives are in greater danger than women from the coronavirus.

It is hard to understand why being a man is such a strong risk factor for dying from COVID-19.

Now, though, Yale researchers have revealed biological mechanisms that make men more vulnerable than women to SARS-CoV-2.

Their research has revealed that the immune response is affected by aging depending on sex, which in turn influences the incidence and severity of COVID-19.

The differences in genetic makeup and sex hormones may account for the doubling of the COVID mortality risk in men.

The female sex hormone estrogen reduces the ability of the virus to infect cells and the two X chromosomes keep the immune system alert to detect pathogens.

This basic biology provides a higher protection for women.

Professor Akiko Iwasaki, the study’s first author, said:

“Age and sex are where immunological changes intersect.”

Recent studies show that gene expression regulates our immune response and tells the immune cells how to react to a threat.

Immunity weakens with age, but due to lower gene expression related to adaptive immunity the decline is much faster in men.

The changes in immune system in men occur dramatically between ages 62 and 64 whereas the decline in immune responses starts in women six years later than that.

Iwasaki’s lab has identified certain molecules that improve immune response against COVID-19 and those causing adverse effects on health.

The research explains why the risk of death for the virus is 1.7 times higher in men than women.

It seems that X chromosomes contain genes that control the immune responses.

Women have two X chromosomes which is an advantage here.

In women, when one X chromosome is silenced the other chromosome is still active meaning the immune system will get more effective against an infection than in men with their single X chromosome.

Also, the male sex hormone androgen appears to be an important factor associated with worse outcomes, while the female sex hormone estrogen provides protection in woman with COVID-19.

Estrogen suppresses ACE 2 receptors which are the entry point for SARS-CoV-2 to infect cells.

On the other hand, androgen increases the virus’ ability to infect cells.

Age is another risk factor disrupting immune responses in men against the coronavirus.

Males in their early 60s lack the ability to create an initial immune response against the virus so other immune system molecules overreact to compensate for this issue.

This may lead to cytokine storm, a life-threatening inflammatory syndrome which can lead to lung failure in some COVID-19 patients.

Professor Iwasaki concluded:

“I knew we would learn a lot about immunity to this virus by studying sex differences, but I didn’t know the findings would be this clear.

Hopefully, vaccines will start to level the playing field between men and women and reduce deaths for everyone.”

The study was published in the journal Science (Takahashi & Iwasaki, 2021).

The Reason COVID Is More Dangerous For Some People

Whether a patient’s immune system can fight off COVID-19 infection might depend on one thing from the past.

Whether a patient’s immune system can fight off COVID-19 infection might depend on one thing from the past.

The effectiveness of people’s immune system against SARS-CoV-2 may depend on antibodies produced from previous coronavirus infections responsible for common colds, a study has found.

This is not the first time that humans have battled a coronavirus; before COVID-19, mankind has faced six types of coronaviruses, at least.

The name coronavirus is given to these viruses because their surface is full of crown-like (corona) spike proteins.

The research team wanted to know how coronaviruses flare up our immune system and how human adaptive immunity works after being exposed to the virus for the first time.

Dr John Altin, the study’s senior author, said:

“Our results suggest that the COVID-19 virus may awaken an antibody response that existed in humans prior to our current pandemic, meaning that we might already have some degree of pre-existing immunity to this virus.”

This understanding can help scientists to develop efficient vaccines or monoclonal antibody treatments to protect humans from novel coronavirus mutations.

The research team used PepSeq, a tool to map antibody responses against any coronavirus infecting humans.

Dr Jason Ladner, the study’s first author, said:

“The data generated using PepSeq allowed for broad characterization of the antibody response in individuals recently infected with SARS-CoV-2 compared with those of individuals exposed only to previous coronaviruses that now are widespread in human populations.”

As well as SARS-CoV-2, the team studied the antibody responses to life threatening SARS-CoV-1, the first pandemic coronavirus responsible for the 2003 outbreak and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) responsible for the 2012 outbreak.

All three viruses were initially found in animals but evolved to infect humans and make them sick.

The team also tested the antibody responses to four older coronaviruses causing mild infection: betacoronavirus OC43, betacoronavirus HKU1, alphacoronavirus 229E, and alphacoronavirus NL63, which are responsible for common colds.

They found that SARS-CoV-2 summons those antibodies produced in response to pervious coronavirus infections.

Dr Altin said:

“Our findings highlight sites at which the SARS-CoV-2 response appears to be shaped by previous coronavirus exposures, and which have potential to raise broadly-neutralizing antibodies.

We further demonstrate that these cross-reactive antibodies preferentially bind to endemic coronavirus peptides, suggesting that the response to SARS-CoV-2 at these regions may be constrained by previous coronavirus exposure.”

This might explain why COVID-19 patients react differently to the virus as some show no symptoms, some have mild symptoms, and some have severe infections causing hospitalization or death.

Dr Ladner said:

“Our findings raise the possibility that the nature of an individual’s antibody response to prior endemic coronavirus infection may impact the course of COVID-19 disease.”

The study was published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine (Ladner et al., 2020).