The coronavirus has infected millions of people and sweep across the globe. The illness knows no mercy – it just swoops in on anyone it can infect without regard for age, gender, and race.
Now, there’s this observation that people with strong immunity responds to COVID 19 better than those who are immunocompromised. How true can this be?
Let’s examine what COVID 19 teaches us about strong immunity in this post. We’ll also take quick overviews of the human immunity and the COVID-19 disease to further understand all these things.
Understanding Human Immunity
The human immune system is our personal army to keep intruders such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites off from our bodies. It produces various responses to ward off harmful germs and foreign substances in the body.
The immune system keeps us safe from illnesses caused by various germs and environmental factors. It also helps us battle infections should they develop inside the body.
Our immune system is divided into two: Innate and Adaptive.
1. Innate Immunity
Innate immunity is the earliest defense line against germs and other pathogens. It is also referred to as native immunity, natural immunity, and non-specific immune response.
This immune response has various defenses already in place even before the infection happens. Innate immunity prevents the entry, spread, and movement of pathogenic substances throughout the body. It blocks and reacts with possible intruders that may negatively affect a person’s health.
Immediate response is the hallmark of innate immunity. It jumps right into action once it detects a foreign substance trying to get inside the body. Also, innate immunity does not distinguish between pathogens and doesn’t have a targeted way to ward off pathogens specifically.
Examples of innate immunity at work are body organs such as skin and hair. Others include our mucous membranes, nasal hairs, and stomach acids.
Here’s an example of innate immunity at work in the context of the novel coronavirus:
The COVID 19 virus enters your body by nose and mouth. You’ve contracted the virus by touching a contaminated surface, then bringing your unwashed hands to your nose and mouth.
As a result, you sneezed repeatedly and started to develop a cough. Sneezing and coughing can both be considered innate immunity. This is because your nose tries to expel the virus by sweeping it out of your nasal passages using mucus and your nasal hairs.
2. Adaptive Immunity
Adaptive immunity is the body’s second line of defense against pathogens. It is also known as specific or acquired immunity.
This type of immunity develops as a result of prior exposure to a particular microbial substance. Adaptive immunity reacts specifically to each pathogen that invades the body. Adaptive immunity uses specific white blood cells called T and B lymphocytes to fight off an infection.
Hallmark characteristics of adaptive immunity include:
- Memory – Ability to remember and respond vigorously to repeated exposures to a single pathogen.
- Specificity – Ability to tell apart various kinds of substances
Most vaccines work under the principle of adaptive immunity, creating a specific response in the body through an initial exposure to a pathogen. The key signs of inflammation such as redness, swelling, pain, and pus are also examples of adaptive immunity at work.
An Overview of COVID 19
Now, let’s move on to a quick overview of COVID 19.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus strain. The virus was first found in Wuhan, China in December 2019. COVID-19 spreads rapidly through droplets from the mouth and nasal secretions of an infected person.
The main symptoms of the disease include fatigue, fever, dry cough, and sore throat. Recently, a host of other symptoms appeared in different cases, which include:
- Muscle pain
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of smell and taste
The virus appears to be more fatal in men and elderly people with underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Statistics in China, Spain, Italy, Germany, and New York, USA have seen that more men succumb to the disease than women.
At present, there is no cure nor vaccine for COVID 19. Scientific research is currently underway to rapidly develop a vaccine in the hopes of containing the deadly virus right away.
What Happens to People with Strong Immunity Infected with COVID-19?
Healthy people with strong immunity are not automatically protected from COVID-19. There’s still a risk that they could contract the illness. However, if ever they do catch COVID-19, their survival chances are significantly higher.
You may have heard of people contracting COVID-10 without realizing it, or without presenting any kind of symptoms. Such people only confirmed their illnesses after testing positive for COVID-19 swab tests. That’s could be because these people have healthier immune systems when they contracted the disease.
Recent studies have shown that around 80% of infected people in China show little to no COVID-19 symptoms. Several countries have also seen this trend, with plenty of people termed as silent carriers because they only display very mild to no symptoms at all.
A common denominator for these silent carriers is that they all come from a healthy and young demographic. Children also seem to be more resilient from the virus than adults are.
How can these people be asymptomatic while others suffer from severe symptoms rapidly? It all boils down to how their immune systems react with the virus.
Naturally stronger innate immune systems
One hypothesis reasons that children have stronger innate immune systems than adults. This means that once COVID-19 infects a child, his immune system clears out the virus quickly, leading to lesser quantities of virus particles surviving in the body. The result is a milder version of the illness which may not be strong enough to produce noticeable symptoms.
Stronger female immune responses
It appears that women have stronger immune responses than men, explaining why more males succumb to COVID-19 worldwide.
The innate immune system contains a protein called toll-like receptor 7. This protein recognizes virus molecules and plays a big role in the body identifying a virus as a foreign substance. Women have more of this receptor protein because toll-like receptor 7 comes from the X chromosome found in women’s genes. The result – women’s immune responses recognize the virus earlier and jumpstart protective measures to keep the virus out faster.
Adaptive immunity responses also appear greater in females than in males. For instance, females have high amounts of the hormone estrogen in their bodies. Estrogen helps regulate several immune system protein genes. It also enhances the production of interferons, which are proteins released to signal a heightened anti-viral defense.
Healthy lifestyles translate to better immune responses
A person who generally stays healthy has greater chances of improving his immune system’s capacity to positively respond to illnesses, including COVID-19. As seen in present reports, most healthy young individuals who were infected with COVID-19 did not develop life-threatening respiratory symptoms. The disease’s attack on them was much milder, partly because their healthy immune systems handled the virus well.
This is why several health agencies such as Harvard and the WHO advise everyone to stay healthy at home during the pandemic period. They recommend the following measures to keep healthy and help raise the immune system’s health:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Reducing stress
- Getting 7-10 hours of sleep each night
- Staying active through regular moderate exercise
- Stopping smoking
- Consuming less alcoholic beverages
A healthy immune system isn’t a ticket to instant COVID-19 protection. You may still contract the virus, however, your chances of surviving through it are high.
Wrapping It Up
COVID-19 is still an uncertain illness. There are plenty of questions as to how the body can fight off the illness and why other people seem to get sick from the disease more than others do.
From a current standpoint, what COVID-19 teaches us about people with strong immunity is that these people seem to develop milder versions of the illness, in the event they do catch the virus. Most young and healthy people are asymptomatic and get better in a few weeks after infection.
Immune responses also play a big role in determining a person’s response to the COVID-19 virus. It seems that women have stronger innate and adaptive immune responses than men, while children’s innate immune systems respond better to the disease. More research is needed for all these conclusions since again, COVID-19 is still highly uncertain in many aspects.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping oneself healthy to be on the safe side. This is true no matter what your gender or age is. A healthy lifestyle helps strengthen the immune system, which in turn, will help protect you from getting the dreaded COVID-19 virus.