Though the coronavirus tends to have a more serious effect on older populations — with the average age of fatality victims around 80 — scientists have noticed that there is a growing number of cases where young people with no preexisting health conditions have died from the virus.
According to CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci even noted the trend, claiming that it is what makes COVID-19 such an “unusual disease.”
“I’m fascinated… by what I would call the pathogenesis,” Fauci said. “I don’t think it’s only if you’re elderly or if you have underlying conditions.”
“There’s something else going on there that hopefully we’ll ultimately figure out.”
Researchers have started looking into possible reasons behind the growth in serious cases in young people and have come up with three different possible hypotheses for why some young individuals with no underlying health conditions have succumbed to the disease.
One of the leading hypotheses is that young adults with a variation in the ACE2 gene are more susceptible to serious complications. ACE2 is an enzyme that attaches to the outermost surface of cells in organs such as the lungs and the heart.
Immunologist Philip Murphy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stated that “variations in the ACE2 gene that alter the receptor could make it easier or harder for the virus to get into lung cells.”
In other words, those with a defective gene make it easier for the virus to penetrate the lungs.
But that is not the only theory that has been put forth by researchers. Others have suggested that the key lies in each person’s ability to produce surfactant. Surfactants are compounds that allow the lungs to expand and contract. Without them, the lungs stiffen and make it harder for them to contract.
Scientists have suggested that those whose stores of surfactants deplete faster have a more difficult time combating the virus due to breathing difficulties and could be the link between the young adults who have struggled with the disease.
Last but not least, a third suggestion is that some young people might have an overactive immune system, causing a massive inflammatory response to the virus that overwhelms the body’s organs.
Though doctors are still trying to pinpoint the exact reason behind the increase in younger fatalities, the recommended prevention guidelines remain the same: hand washing and social distancing.
Meanwhile, in another scientific breakthrough, a doctor has recommended a specific breathing technique to prevent pneumonia in those infected with COVID-19, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.