Pakistan's low coronavirus fatalities may be due to ‘second exposure’

Dr Jadoon says antibodies from first exposure critical


Zubair Ayub April 27, 2020
A Reuters image of a man with two children on a swing.

ABBOTTABAD: Some medical practitioners have questioned the relatively low fatality rate in Pakistan from the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), standing at around 2.06 deaths to infections. However, some believe that this may be so because this is may not be the first time we have been introduced to at least a strain of the virus.

Abbottabad University of Science and Technology (AUST) Immunology and Microbiology Assistant Professor Dr Ayub Jadoon has claimed in his latest research that people living in Pakistan may have been exposed for a second time to the virus, which is why we have a slightly higher resistance to it than residents of other countries.

Dr Jadoon claimed that on the second exposure to the virus, antibodies produced during the first exposure, or the Memory B cells, are already present in an individual and this help defend the body against the incoming virus, even if this is a different strain of the virus.

He continued that in underdeveloped countries such as Pakistan, there are no proper systems for diagnosing virus, and we still lack an adequate number of diagnostic kits.

“How is it possible to detect mutation in the viruses,” the microbiologist asked, adding that mutations in viruses remain unnoticed and are often misdiagnosed as influenza or common cold with symptoms of flu, cough, pyrexia and difficult respiration, he explained.

The AUST health expert who also holds a PhD, further said coronaviruses are not new and are usually present in animals and birds. Normally, these viruses from animals and the birds are not transferable to humans because humans have different receptors to animals.

There is, however, always a chance for viruses to mutate and the resulting new strain can cause the disease to spread amongst humans, Dr Jadoon said. When the people are exposed to these new, mutated strains, then the immune system of the body tries to resist it and innate and specific immune response are activated to neutralise or kill the virus.

Moreover, the assistant professor stated that antibodies remain in the blood of these individuals for quite some time and act as a self-made vaccine. In the event of a second exposure, he said that these antibodies, or the Memory B cells, are there to combat the infection.

On his research, Dr Jadoon referred over 15 sources of research, suggesting that in the case of Covid-19 or SARS-2 coronavirus, it is being very well countered by the immune system of the public in underdeveloped countries such as Pakistan.

By contrast, those living in Europe, America and Australia - which are considered as pathogen-free countries - seem to be affected badly as people in these countries may be exposing themselves to the virus for the first time.

He also warned against some passive immunisation solutions being touted elsewhere, noting that patients, where antibodies against the virus are already present, can cause problems.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2020.

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