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How to protect older people from COVID-19 coronavirus infection? (11)
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Elderly people face a particular danger of severe COVID-19 disease and death from COVID-19 coronavirus infection. From an immunologist’s perspective, what makes coronavirus infection particularly dangerous in older people? Are there any specific tweaks of immune system perhaps that can be done to reduce the severity of coronavirus infection in those elderly people who do get infected with COVID-19? So the thing about elderly people – I’m not young myself, and I would start falling into high-risk COVID-19 category – is that our immune systems start relying more on our previous exposures, and less on our ability to learn new things. And as a result, when something very new comes up, we’re not as adaptive. And we don’t make new antibodies as efficiently as we would if it was something closer to something that we’ve already been exposed to earlier in our lives. And that is a very serious problem for something as new as the COVID-19 coronavirus. We always call it the SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). And so that’s a problem. That’s why elderly people also do not respond well to vaccines. Because their immune system is, I suppose, in many respects, analogous to their brains. They are better at the memory, remembering things, than they are at learning new things. And so we have to be very careful when a new virus like this one comes up. And probably we have to include in our repertoire of protections a passive infusion of antibodies that somebody else, for example, another individual has made or or a scientist has designed or some combination thereof. We have to allow those antibodies to protect [against COVID-19] in addition to any vaccine responses they might have. That’s a very promising approach. This strategy could work as soon as there are monoclonal antibodies that could be blocking the SARS coronavirus 2, COVID-19. I agree completely, but [monoclonal antibodies against COVID-19 virus] will be expensive. And so that will be one of the issues as we come forward and especially as we talk about worldwide use of this kind of therapy. But [antibody-based treatments] also, I think, can be effective against COVID-19. And it would certainly help halt the spread of the coronavirus.
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