COVID on campus

New research reveals why COVID-19 can be deadly for some and mild for others

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The news column “COVID on campus” posts relevant COVID-19 news every week for UWEC students.

Over the course of the pandemic, scientists have asked why some patients can die from COVID-19 while others do not even need to be hospitalized. According to NBC News, new studies may have uncovered the reason why.

New studies reveal that, especially for older men, the virus takes a heavy effect due to “friendly fire” on the immune system. 

In particular, one international study revealed that 10% of about 1,000 COVID-19 patients who developed life-threatening pneumonia were at risk due to their antibodies. 

Their antibodies — known as autoantibodies — would disable essential immune system proteins known as interferons

Interferons function as an alarm system to protect the body, they “serve as the body’s first line of defense against infection.”

The autoantibodies, named due to the fact they attack their own body, were not found in 663 of the patients studied who had mild COVID-19 infections or were asymptomatic. 

NBC News also said that patients do not make autoantibodies in response to a COVID-19 infection. Patients that have autoantibodies have them already before the infection. 

Researchers do not yet know why the autoantibodies didn’t cause problems for the patients before they were infected. 

A second study from the same research team showed that an additional 3.5% of critically ill patients possessed mutations in their genes that control the interferons necessary to fight viruses.

There is also research being done to determine whether the autoantibodies could have had an effect on the flu since some of the patients that showed drastic symptoms following their COVID-19 infection had the flu in the past.

As of 3 p.m. on Nov. 20, four new positive antigen tests at the on-campus student testing site appeared out of the 495 tests given that day, resulting in a positivity rate of 0.8%.

According to the UW-Eau Claire COVID-19 dashboard, the cumulative total of positive tests among students tested at UWEC now rests at 587 COVID-19 cases out of the 19,578 tests given. 

This is an increase of 50 cases since exactly one week before on Nov. 13. 

The dashboard has added new features to its running updates to include a separate dashboard for off-campus student and faculty testing, and it’s labeled “Surge Testing.” Surge testing began on Nov. 6, according to the dashboard. 

Additionally, a dashboard for surge testing at the Barron County campus has been added. As of 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, no positive cases were found among students or faculty.

As of 12 p.m. today, the information from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department said there were 88 new student-connected cases of COVID-19 and no new staff cases. 

This brings the cumulative total of student-connected positive cases of COVID-19 to 848 cases while the staff cases remain at 16. The student-connected cases increased by 88 cases since last week.

In Eau Claire County, there have been 7,250 positive tests of COVID-19 as well as 36,863 negative tests, according to the Eau Claire County COVID-19 Information Hub.

The death count now rests at 54 deaths due to COVID-19. That is 12 more deaths since last week.

Spierings can be reached at [email protected].