If you haven’t gotten COVID yet, this could be the reason

If you haven’t gotten COVID yet, this could be the reason

New research reveals why some people didn’t test positive.

At the dawn of the pandemic, it was shocking β€” and terrifying β€” to hear when someone you know tested positive for COVID. While the pandemic should certainly be taken seriously, thanks to COVID vaccines and booster shots becoming widely available, for the vast majority of people, getting COVID is much less scary than it used to be. In fact, at this time of the pandemic, it is more surprising to hear of someone who it is not tested positive for the virus at some point in the past two years.

Still, it happens. Why are there still people who did not have the virus? They never leave the house? While this could certainly be a consequence of taking precautions such as wearing masks, hand sanitising, and social distancing, new scientific research from the University of California, San Francisco shows that an estimated 10 percent of the population is asymptomatic for COVID. This means they could actually have the virus and just not know it.

Related: Should you get the flu shot and the COVID booster at the same time? Doctors share pros and cons

Why do some people never test positive for COVID?

According to new research, it is possible to get COVID but never be positive or show symptoms due to a gene mutation. “This was one of the challenges at the beginning of the pandemic – the possibility of spreading the virus without knowing you are sick,” he says dr. Roger Seheult, MDassistant clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of California, Riverside and medical consultant Turn on/go.

dr. Seheult explains that when the body becomes infected with COVID, the cells inside break down the virus and present its protein fragments on the cell surface along with a type of protein called MHC1. “MCH1 is found on the surface of all cells – except red blood cells – and is the same throughout the body, but it can look very different between different human beings because there are different versions of the gene that makes this protein,” says Dr Seheult. .

He explains that certain people with specific MCH1 patterns seem to present protein fragments of the COVID virus to T-cells better than other versions, allowing the T-cells to destroy the virus more quickly. That means it is The COVID virus is destroyed in the body faster than it has time to reproduce and affect other cells in the body. “It doesn’t really affect the virus itself other than taking away its ability to spread in the body,” says Dr. Seheult.

Related: Here’s what your immunity against COVID actually looks like when you get that second booster

“The gene mutation helps people avoid symptoms,” he says dr. Purvi Parikh, MD, an infectious disease physician at NYU Langone. β€œIt basically makes the T-cells super immune, or have pre-existing immunity from exposure to other similar viruses, so when COVID gets into your body, it can be quickly neutralized. It’s not sure, but it gives you 10 times the dose without symptoms.” She adds that this is likely the case for the original COVID virus as well as its variants such as Omicron and Delta, although more studies need to be done to confirm this.

How did you get lucky? It’s all in the genes. “It can be inherited from either parent, which makes them almost two and a half times more likely to have asymptomatic COVID than if they didn’t have that version of the gene,” says Dr. Seheult. “If someone was lucky enough to get this version of the gene from both parents, that chance increases more than eightfold.”

If someone has this gene mutation, they likely won’t show symptoms of COVID and won’t spread the virus as easily as those who don’t have the mutation.

Related: How long are you actually protected from infection after you’ve had COVID? Here’s what you need to know

Other reasons why some people have not yet tested positive for COVID

Just because someone has not yet tested positive for COVID does not mean that the virus should be ignored. “There are many other reasons why someone might not show symptoms of COVID,” says Dr. Seheult. He explains that the symptoms of COVID can be extremely mild for some people based on genetics or optimization of their health. For example, someone who is immunocompromised is more likely to experience severe symptoms of COVID than someone who is considered to be in good health.

Also, if someone is vaccinated and boosted against COVID and then gets the virus, their symptoms will likely be milder. If someone has very mild symptoms, they may not think about getting tested for COVID-19.

There is also the possibility that someone simply hasn’t caught the virus yet, especially if they regularly keep their distance, wear a mask and use hand sanitizer.

It is important to continue to take COVID seriously; it didn’t disappear. There are some precautions that everyone can take to protect themselves. “Eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting outside and enjoying the sun and fresh air, getting enough sleep, and participating in public health interventions like vaccinations can give you layers of protection now and in the future,” says Dr. Seheult. And that’s good advice whether you have a gene mutation that offers extra protection or not.

Next, here’s what you need to know about treating long-term COVID if you’re still experiencing symptoms months after testing positive.


  • dr. Roger Seheult, MD, assistant clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of California, Riverside and medical consultant Turn on/go

  • dr. Purvi Parikh, MDan infectious disease physician at NYU Langone


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