Why Do People React Differently To Coronavirus?

Wasim Uz Zaman
5 min readMar 30, 2020

The novel coronavirus, officially known as the SARS-Cov-2, has become an unconventional enemy of the human body. It is hard to discern why this variant of the coronavirus, of which there are many including the common cold, flu, SARS and MERS, are affecting each person’s body so differently. In an article on Medium , there is a detailed description on why the SARS-Cov-2 reacts differently to different people. The answer, infact lies with our immune system. Each body has a different reaction to viruses, and our immunity is what leads to different people fighting off the virus differently.

It is clearer now that the immune system’s reaction to the virus ultimately decides upon the level of damage you suffer. Most of the deaths from the coronavirus is due to the immune system becoming the patient’s own villain. While trying to contain the virus’ outbreak, the immune system overreacts and potentially leads to the patient’s death. Seldom is the virus the cause of death for the person. Let us break down each stage of reaction to the virus infection.

The first natural line of defense for any viral infection is to launch interferons which are proteins that inhibit the virus’ ability to replicate itself in the body’s cells. Interferons are also recruiters of other immune cells, which attacks the virus to stop it spreading. This intial response is enough to overcome the infection quickly however, viruses have ways of eluding this standard line of defense.

This natural line of defense is the reason why you get sick. It produces phlegm when you cough, or diarrhea when you get bowel movement. All this to throw out the tiny particles from your body. Another symptom of sickness is fever, probably to make your body aware that there is a foreign invader, and to make it more hostile to the occupant. Infact, there are two ways you can have coronavirus infections: one in your respiratory system and two, in your intestines. If you swallow frequently, the virus might get killed in your stomach, or some of it might end up in your intestines. If it does, the immune system’s natural response will be to cause diarrhea to expel it from the body. If it reaches your respiratory system, your body will produce the mucus that it will try and throw out by way of a cough. These are often called mild symptoms. They occur because the virus gains entry into a cell through a protein called ACE2.

The second line of defense is the adaptive response, where your body’s defense produces:

  1. Antibodies or immunoglobulins. They are Y-shaped proteins produced by white blood cells that recognize antigens like viruses and bacteria and binds to them. This makes it easy for the immune cells below to kill them.
  2. T-cells, which are lymphocytes that originate in the bone marrow and grow in the thymus gland. Just note that T-cells fight not only viruses, but bacteria and cancerous cells too. They also remember the last antigen that invaded your body, so they provide immunity to specific antigens in some cases for life. Make sure you realize the importance of these lymphocytes.

In the earlier cited article on Medium about coronavirus also talks about two complications. First, prolonged exposure to viruses make it difficult for the immune system to gain control because the antigens spread and replicate rapidly more often than the immune system can manage. That is when severe infections develop. Second, weaker immune systems in the elderly or immunocompromised leads to weaker immune response that lets the virus spread without a fight. Warner Greene, MD, PhD, director of the Gladstone Center for HIV Cure Research and a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of California, San Francisco says that a good antibody response will clear the virus and lead to recovery in no time, but weaker immune systems will react poorly leading to delayed antibody response and a longer disease run-in.

In light of the knowledge that your immune response needs to be better, these are some of the recommendations I make based on personal findings. They should help in strengthening your immune system:

  1. Tea. Mostly black tea, or green tea. They feel therapeutic and immediately give you a sense of relief from the ailing infection. The reason is because you get 10 times more interferons to fend off antigens if you have 5 cups of black tea a day than someone who doesn’t.
  2. Chicken soup. The old addage that chicken soup fights cold is true. It is anti-inflammatory because it prevents inflamed white blood cells from clogging the bronchial tubes. The broth works like a cough medicine, by keeping mucus thin so you can throw out easily.
  3. Garlic. It contains allicin, which only forms when you crush or chew a garlic. Therefore the more you crush or chew, the more allicin you form. Allicin elicits response from white blood cells that fight certain coronaviruses such as common cold and flu. The National Institute of Health has several studies that show the benefits of garlic on cold viruses. However the World Health Organization (WHO) clearly states that : “Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.” So while garlic may not prevent the new strain of SARS-Cov-2, but it’s main compound allicin is likely to trigger an immune response if you catch it.
Source: World Health Organization

There are two ways the body gets damaged: the virus destroying your cells, or the immune system destroying the infected cells along with the virus. It is this latter problem that leads to patient death in some cases. Either the immune system regains control of the body by eliminating the virus, or it goes into a frenzy by overdoing its production of cytokines that signal T-cells to destroy infected cells. Eventually the patient’s body might be filled up with fluid or pus and they suffer from acute respiratory distress, which is where the virus’ name came from. This often leads to the patient’s demise. People who have the most compromised immune systems often have the most hyperactive immune responses during the virus’ latter stages. This includes the elderly.

There’s no cure for the SARS-Cov-2, and antiviral drugs are a some way off. Fujifilm of all companies are in the hunt for a cure, with an anti-influenza drug called favipiravir making their noises heard with clinical trials that proved successful in clearing the virus in 4 days. Although it was a group of 35 patients, the tiny sample size gives some hope as to finding an effective drug for Covid-19 disease. The best way for a person’s body to react to the new coronavirus it seems, is to treat it like you would for the old coronaviruses. Intake food that produces proteins and boosts your immunity, rest to conserve energy and exercise to muscle up your immune system.