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Haven’t had COVID yet? It could be more than just luck

Even taking into account people who have had COVID but didn’t know it, there’s still likely to be a group of people who have never been infected.

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We all know a few of those lucky people who, somehow, have managed to avoid ever catching COVID. Perhaps you’re one of them. Is this a Marvel-esque superpower? Is there any scientific reason why a person might be resistant to becoming infected, when the virus seems to be everywhere? Or is it simply luck?

More than 60% of people in the UK have tested positive for COVID at least once. However, the number of people who have actually been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is thought to be higher. The calculated rate of asymptomatic infections varies depending on the study, though most agree it’s fairly common.

But even taking into account people who have had COVID and not realised it, there is still likely a group of people who never have. The reason why some people appear immune to COVID is one question that has persisted throughout the pandemic. As with so much in science, there isn’t (yet) one simple answer.

We can probably dismiss the Marvel-esque superpower theory. But science and luck likely both have a role to play. Let’s take a look.

The simplest explanation is that these people have never come into contact with the virus.

This could certainly be the case for people who have been shielding during the pandemic. People at significantly greater risk of severe disease, such as those with chronic heart or lung conditions, have had a tough couple of years.

Many of them continue to take precautions to avoid potential exposure to the virus. Even with additional safety measures, many of these people have ended up with COVID.

Due to the high level of community transmission, particularly with the extremely transmissible omicron variants, it’s very unlikely that someone going to work or school, socialising and shopping hasn’t been near someone infected with the virus. Yet there are people who have experienced high levels of exposure, such as hospital workers or family members of people who have had COVID, who have somehow managed to avoid testing positive.

We know from several studies vaccines not only reduce the risk of severe disease, but they can also cut the chance of household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by about half. So certainly vaccination could have helped some close contacts avoid becoming infected. However, it’s important to note that these studies were done pre-omicron. The data we have on the effect of vaccination on omicron transmission is still limited.


Read more: Four strange COVID symptoms you might not have heard about


Some theories

One theory around why certain people have avoided infection is that, although they are exposed to the virus, it fails to establish an infection even after gaining entry to the airways. This could be due to a lack of the receptors needed for SARS-CoV-2 to gain access to cells.

Once a person does become infected, researchers have identified that differences in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 play a role in determining the severity of symptoms. It is possible that a quick and robust immune response could prevent the virus from replicating to any great degree in the first instance.

The efficacy of our immune response to infection is largely defined by our age and our genetics. That said, a healthy lifestyle certainly helps. For example, we know that vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of certain infections. Not getting enough sleep can also have a detrimental effect on our body’s ability to fight invading pathogens.

An illustration of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus needs to attach to receptors to gain access to our cells. Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Scientists studying the underlying causes of severe COVID have identified a genetic cause in nearly 20% of critical cases. Just as genetics could be one determining factor of disease severity, our genetic makeup may also hold the key to resistance to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

I research SARS-CoV-2 infection on nasal cells from human donors. We grow these cells on plastic dishes which we can then add virus to and investigate how the cells respond. During our research we found one donor whose cells could not be infected with SARS-CoV-2.

We discovered some really interesting genetic mutations, including several involved with the body’s immune response to infection, that could explain why. A mutation we identified in a gene involved with sensing the presence of a virus has previously been shown to confer resistance to HIV infection. Our research is on a small number of donors and highlights that we’re still only scraping the surface of research into genetic susceptibility or resistance to infections.

There’s also the possibility that previous infection with other types of coronaviruses results in cross-reactive immunity. This is where our immune system may recognise SARS-CoV-2 as being similar to a recent invading virus and launch an immune response. There are seven coronaviruses that infect humans: four that cause the common cold, and one each that cause Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID.

How long-lasting this immunity may be is another question. Seasonal coronaviruses that circulated pre-2020 were able to reinfect the same people after 12 months.


Read more: The common cold might protect you from coronavirus – here's how


If you’ve managed to avoid COVID to date, maybe you do have natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2 infection, or perhaps you’ve just been lucky. Either way, it’s sensible to continue to take precautions against this virus that we still know so little about.

Lindsay Broadbent receives funding from The Wellcome Trust.

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Aging-US | Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver

BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone…

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BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver.”

Credit: Hillje et al.

BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver.”

Aging is known to involve epigenetic histone modifications, which are associated with transcriptional changes, occurring throughout the entire lifespan of an individual.

“So far, no study discloses any drift of histone marks in mammals which is time-dependent or influenced by pro-longevity caloric restriction treatment.”

To detect the epigenetic drift of time passing, researchers—from Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, University of Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’, University of Milan, and University of Padua—determined the genome-wide distributions of mono- and tri-methylated lysine 4 and acetylated and tri-methylated lysine 27 of histone H3 in the livers of healthy 3, 6 and 12 months old C57BL/6 mice. 

“In this study, we used chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing technology to acquire 108 high-resolution profiles of H3K4me3, H3K4me1, H3K27me3 and H3K27ac from the livers of mice aged between 3 months and 12 months and fed 30% caloric restriction diet (CR) or standard diet (SD).”

The comparison of different age profiles of histone H3 marks revealed global redistribution of histone H3 modifications with time, in particular in intergenic regions and near transcription start sites, as well as altered correlation between the profiles of different histone modifications. Moreover, feeding mice with caloric restriction diet, a treatment known to retard aging, reduced the extent of changes occurring during the first year of life in these genomic regions.

“In conclusion, while our data do not establish that the observed changes in H3 modification are causally involved in aging, they indicate age, buffered by caloric restriction, releases the histone H3 marking process of transcriptional suppression in gene desert regions of mouse liver genome most of which remain to be functionally understood.”

DOI: https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.204107 

Corresponding Author: Marco Giorgio – marco.giorgio@unipd.it 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, histones, ChIP-seq, diet

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About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging (Aging-US) publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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FDA asks for COVID boosters to fight Omicron’s BA.4, BA.5 subvariants

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines be modified beginning this fall to include components…

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FDA asks for COVID boosters to fight Omicron’s BA.4, BA.5 subvariants

By Michael Erman

June 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines be modified beginning this fall to include components tailored to combat the currently dominant Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the coronavirus.

The FDA said manufacturers would not need to change the vaccine for the primary vaccination series, saying the coming year will be “a transitional period when this modified booster vaccine may be introduced.”

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

The new booster shots would be bivalent vaccines, meaning doses would target both the original virus as well as the Omicron subvariants.

The decision follows a recommendation by the agency’s outside advisers to change the design of the shots this fall in order to combat more prevalent versions of the coronavirus. read more

BA.4 and BA.5 are now estimated to account for more than 50% of U.S. infections, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and have also become dominant elsewhere.

The FDA said in a statement on Thursday that it hoped the modified vaccines could be used in early to mid-fall.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) with partner BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) and Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) have been testing versions of their vaccines modified to combat the BA.1 Omicron variant that caused the massive surge in cases last winter.

Although they have said those vaccines worked against BA.1 and the more recently circulating variants, they did see a lower immune response against BA.4 and BA.5.

The companies had already been manufacturing their BA.1 vaccines, and said on Tuesday that swapping to a BA.4/BA.5 version could slow the rollout.

Pfizer/BioNTech, which on Wednesday announced a $3.2 billion contract to supply more COVID vaccine doses to the United States, said they would have a substantial amount of BA.4/BA.5 vaccine ready for distribution by the first week of October. read more

Moderna said it would be late October or early November before it would have the newly modified vaccine ready.

Reporting by Michael Erman in New Jersey and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters

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Marketing automation startup Retail Rocket nabs $24M for expansion

Retail Rocket, a retention management platform for brands, today announced that it raised $24 million in a Series A round led by Cyprus-based private equity…

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Retail Rocket, a retention management platform for brands, today announced that it raised $24 million in a Series A round led by Cyprus-based private equity fund Flintera. In addition to the fundraising, Retail Rocket revealed that it acquired SailPlay, a startup developing software to help retailers build loyalty programs and send mass message campaigns.

New York-based SailPlay had raised $3.3 million prior to the acquisition. Founded in 2013 by Leonid Shangin and Yakov Filippenko, the company offered services to collect customer data and leverage it to create games, texts, and tasks designed to encourage repeat business.

As for Retail Rocket, it launched in 2012 headed by Moscow Business School of Management classmates, Nick Khlebinsky and Andrey Chizh, who’d attempted but failed to gain traction with several startups. The learnings from their previous efforts were the springboard for Retail Rocket, which after multiple pivots eventually grew its customer base to over 1,000 companies including Nintendo, Puma, and Decathlon.

“The digital marketing world is growing very fast and the demand for highly-skilled professionals is constantly increasing,” CEO Khlebinsky said. “The complexity of digital marketing tools is booming too — just several years ago we couldn’t imagine the technologies we use today.”

According to Khlebinsky, Retail Rocket uses a mathematical model to segment first-time buyers of a company’s product. By analyzing their actions — for example, the links they click on — the platform attempts to figure out their wants and preferences.

Image Credits: Retail Rocket

Retail Rocket also offers tools for campaign management like email marketing and web-based push notifications, as well as an engine that attempts to identify the best timing and communication channel (e.g., SMS) to make personalized offers. The goal is to create a “system of loyalty and retention management” for both online and offline customers, Khlebinsky said, that ultimately boosts business.

“We work with ecommerce on a performance-based pricing model,” Khlebinsky explained. “In most countries, the pandemic lockdowns spiked online sales, thus we experienced a temporary revenue increase. After the lockdown ended, there was a decrease, but to levels exceeding the pre-lockdown months, because a lot of people were forced to change their buying habits towards online shoppings.”

Absent independent reviews of Retail Rocket’s platform, it’s unclear whether its approach might beat out rivals like SalesForce, SAP, Bloomreach, and Dynamic Yield. But the promise of software that predictably drives repeat business is alluring. According to HubSpot, a mere 5% increase in customer retention can boost profits by 25% to 95%.

Retail Rocket has around 150 employees spread across offices in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Chile, and it plans to double down on mergers and purchases in the coming months. Sources close to the company tell TechCrunch that Retail Rocket has $50 million set aside for acquisitions alone.

“Retail Rocket popped on our radars thanks to their international expansion and ability to set up sales teams in Europe and Latin America,” Flintera partner Sergey Vasin said in a statement. “We were impressed with the company’s results given the limited amount of investment they raised. The company was bootstrapping its growth after the seed round. Despite that, the efficiency of Retail Rocket products surpasses those of international competitors. We expect that the global e-commerce market will continue its growth at more than 10% per annum, with Latin America leading the race.”

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