IN the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, it was thought that mainly older people or those with underlying health conditions were affected by the disease.
And while they remain in the most vulnerable group, in recent days there has been a number of deaths in young and otherwise healthy people.
These include Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, 13, from Brixton, south London, and Luca Di Nicola, 19, who died at North Middlesex Hospital in north London, last week.
Neither of the victims had known pre-existing health conditions.
Meanwhile, a six-week-old baby in Connecticut became the youngest coronavirus victim on Thursday, although it's unclear whether the infant had any underlying problems.
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These recent deaths have left experts questioning why younger and healthy people are dying from Covid-19.
Some researchers have suggested that it could be down to a person's DNA – and are carrying out research to confirm their theory.
In particular, experts say gene coding for the cell surface protein angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which the coronavirus uses to enter airway cells, could hold the answer.
Philip Murphy, an immunologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Science Magazine that variations in the ACE2 gene that alter the receptor could make it easier or harder for the virus to get into cells.
His lab identified a relatively common mutation in another human cell surface protein, CCR5, that makes some people highly resistant to HIV.
In our DNA
Scientists from the University of Helsinki’s Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) are looking into the idea further.
Their goal is to compare the DNA of people who have serious cases of Covid-19 – but no underlying disease like diabetes, heart or lung disease – with those with mild or no disease.
Andrea Ganna at geneticist at FIMM said: “We see huge differences in clinical outcomes and across countries. How much of that is explained by genetic susceptibility is a very open question."
The UK Biobank – one of world’s largest with DNA data for 500,000 participants – is planning to add Covid-19 health data from participants to its data set, it tweeted last month.
Meanwhile, other experts are looking into the human immune system and how it responds to viruses and bacteria.
Researchers suggest that a very reactive immune system could spark a huge inflammatory storm that causes the lungs to overreact.
Dr Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN, said: "In some young, healthy people, a very reactive immune system could lead to a massive inflammatory storm that could overwhelm the lungs and other organs.
"In those cases, it is not an aged or weakened immune system that is the problem – it is one that works too well."
In some young, healthy people, a very reactive immune system could lead to a massive inflammatory storm that could overwhelm the lungs and other organs
He also suggested that there is a possibility some young people think that because they are healthy they won't catch the virus or if they do they will only get mild symptoms.
This could be causing them to take fewer precautions or ignore social distancing rules that would help prevent them from catching or spreading Covid19.
Dr Gupta added that those people "have been exposed to much larger viral loads from the environment".
The higher your viral load – or the amount of virus in the blood – the more virus you have circulating in your system.
Some early research from China has suggested people who are exposed to a larger viral load could experience worse symptoms when they become ill with coronavirus.
Government statistics show that in the UK, the most seriously affected patients are the elderly and vulnerable.
In its most recent update, on March 31, the Office for National Statistics wrote: "The vast majority of deaths involving Covid-19 have been among people aged 65 years and over (100 out of 108), with almost half (45) of these occurring in the over-85 age group."
However, experts have warned young people not to be complacent – and not flout social distancing rules.
It comes after images emerged over the weekend showing people flocking to parks across the UK as the country baked in a min-heatwave.
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