This pandemic is practically unprecedented in terms of how mysterious its risk factors are. While the mode of transmission is known, the exact factors that make a person susceptible to severe complications aren’t. Experts all agree that COVID-19 may either pass the infected with no symptoms, cause mild respiratory effects or in worst-cases deaths.
However, what still remains unclear is who is vulnerable and why. That’s why Endocanna Health, a cannabinoid DNA-research company based in California, has stepped up. They are offering a free DNA test for genetic factors in their consumers. This test is meant to scan for known genetic markers that could lead to susceptibility. While the gesture is generous, it must be cautioned such a test is not meant to be a reliable tool to assess this.
DNA research works by looking for known markers
The aim of Endocanna Health’s test is to examine possible vulnerable genes. Such genes could make a person’s immune system weaker to infection, or allow them to develop worse symptoms.
However, if you’re wondering why you haven’t been prescribed this test before, there’s a reason. Most healthcare providers and experts don’t rely on such tests because they only indicate correlation. There is no way to prove the causation. What that means, simply, is that certain genes canÂ make COVID-19 more severe, not always. Factors like age, diet, health conditions and mental health are important too, though.
Endocanna Health’s research is most notable for its work on the human endocannabinoid system. This system includes the way certain cannabinoid neurotransmitters work to regulate mood, sensation, memory, metabolism and immunity.
The system was discovered by scientists investigating the effects of THC in marijuana on the body. While we did just mention immunity back there, it must be kept in mind that this is onlyÂ partÂ of it (more on that later).
The company’s Chief Science Officer, Dr Chris Spooner, recently claimed that the work they were doing would be useful for understanding the immune system. He mentioned the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the immune cells, that affected the strength of immune response to COVID-19. While the role of cannabinoids on the cells is clear, the message behind the aims should be scrutinized.
Your genes are not the most important factor in beating COVID-19
If Endocanna Health’s aim is to combat COVID-19, then that’s commendable. But if they think that it will significantly contribute to flattening the curve, their hopes are a tad misplaced. Major health experts, from Dr Anthony Fauci to the WHO, all assert that the number one rule to follow is to stay healthy and socially distance. If you’re worried about COVID-19, or another similar disease, then eat healthy, sleep well and stay home. DNA tests can be helpful, truly, in the case of congenital disease (think cystic fibrosis or hemophilia). But to cause misinformation about them is deliberately harmful. Let’s look at the real unsung heroes in the body’s immune system.
To fight infection, circulating white blood cells (called leucocytes) detect and attack germs. They also signal the release of chemicals like prostaglandins to create inflammation and fever, which can be beneficial.
Other cells, like mast cells, help signal the response to rest of the system. Then, from the antigens of the germs, ‘B-Cells’ create antibodies. Antibodies are basically drugs to kill off any other germs left, from bacteria to coronaviruses. This whole process is wonderfully self-regulated. And knowing your genes will just make you more paranoid than actually help, it seems.