Scientists found that people living at high altitudes were less susceptible to heavy Covid-19, because their bodies adapted to the low oxygen content in the blood.
The researchers compared cases of Covid-19 at different altitudes than sea levels in Bolivia, Ecuador (South America) and Tibet (Asia). People living at higher elevations are biologically better prepared for lack of oxygen, thanks to better oxygen transport mechanisms in arteries. They also have low levels of the enzyme angiotensin 2 (ACE2) . Angiotensin 2 is a protein that SARS-CoV-2 virus takes advantage of to infect host cells.
Tibet has very few cases of Covid-19, although the area has good trade with Wuhan.
Environmental factors, such as sunlight on high altitudes, also act as "natural disinfectants". These conclusions are drawn from analysis of Covid-19 infection coefficients in high altitude areas. Scientists believe that the number of cases of Covid-19 is very small in areas higher than the sea surface of 3,000 meters.
"At low altitudes above the surface of the sea, when patients were infected with Covid-19, their lungs were destroyed as if they climbed Mount Everest in a few days without oxygen" - said Gustavo Zubieta-Calleja at the Institute Research on High Lung and Lung Pathology (IPPA) in Bolivia, said.
People living at high altitudes have adapted to low oxygen levels in the bloodstream due to high air circulation, enhanced arterial oxygen transport and high cellular oxidation. These factors can be used to treat patients with Covid-19.
The scientists analyzed the data from the Tibetan region (China) - where the epidemic was over, from Bolivia - one of the last countries to be translated with a third of the territory on high altitude and from Ecuador. - The country is heavily affected by the pandemic with half of its population living in high mountains .
In Bolivia's provinces, only 54 cases of Covid-19 infection were located at high altitudes (nearly 4,000 meters above sea level); the remaining 140 cases at elevations below 2,500 meters above sea level.
The scientists confirmed that the data from Bolivia were consistent with the data published by Ecuador: As of April 7, the number of Covid-19 infections in high mountains (722 cases / 7 million people) was less than about. 4 times higher than the number of infections in lower areas, near the coast (2943 cases / 8.3 million people).
Tibet lies about 3,500 meters above sea level. Although the distance between Tibet - Wuhan is more than 3,000 km, but thanks to trains and buses , "tourism and trade exchanges between the two cities are quite busy." However, in the Tibet region, there are only 134 cases of mild Covid-19 infection!