Tokyo, May 20 (efe-epa).- A study from the University of Tokyo suggests that people in Japan and other East Asian countries have greater resistance against the novel coronavirus owing to their prior exposure to other related pathogens.
This could explain “the lowest mortality recorded in Japan and other Southeast Asian countries,” Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama of the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo said at a press conference via telematics.
Analysis of antibody samples of more than 100 Japanese people “indicate that immunity against SARS-CoV-2 exists in many individuals not exposed to the pathogen, due to prior exposure to protein from another coronavirus in the same family,” Kodama explained.
Preliminary results of the study, in which dozens of samples of patients continue to be analyzed daily, suggest that immunity to the new coronavirus already exists in many East Asian countries, according to the expert.
Kodama added that his hypothesis was backed by another study published a week ago by American scientists on San Diego residents who had not been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Fifty percent of them were found to have immune memory against the new coronavirus.
This Californian city has a high number of residents of Asian origin and with extensive connections to Asia-Pacific region, where there have been successive common cold epidemics possibly caused by strains related to SARS-CoV-2.
The reason for this underlying immunity could be an exposure to other varieties of coronavirus in East Asia, including those causing the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) epidemic in 2012.
The professor stressed that in East Asia there is a long history of diseases with flu-like symptoms, and many of these viruses originally came from China and other parts of Southeast Asia, and then spread to the Middle East and Europe.
The authors of the study believe that prior exposure to viruses in the SARS-CoV-2 family made a big difference in the immune response and mortality rate, and that this was an immunological, and not genetic difference.
While China, South Korea and Japan have recorded between three to six deaths per million people, in other countries such as Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom this number shoots up to more than 500 per million people.
This is a huge difference that hasn’t been extensively studied, and there was a need to understand what it is all about, according to Kodama, who also said he could not entirely rely on the data on COVID-19 cases in Japan due to the small number of tests conducted.
According to official data, Tokyo alone has recorded around 5,000 cases of COVID-19, but according to estimates by Kodama and his team, the number could be “up to 16 times higher.” EFE-EPA