A new study suggests people who live in high altitudes might have protection from the novel coronavirus, though some experts say other factors might come into play.
But do not look to move to Denver if you live on the coast. The study looks at people who have grown up in areas and whose lungs have grown accustomed to the higher altitude.
"Although the data of the present study suggest a strongly decreased pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 in high-altitudes, there is yet no evidence of an underlying physiological mechanism that could affect the severity of infection," the study, published in April in the peer-reviewed Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology, says.
At higher altitudes oxygen molecules are farther apart than at sea level, making less of it available to inhale. This can cause an oxygen deficiency called hypoxia, that people who grow up in high altitudes such as Colorado tend to make up for with large lung capacity, the Miami Herald noted.
And this higher lung capacity could be the reason people who live at higher altitudes seem better equipped to recover from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the researchers surmised.
The study looked at COVID-19 patients in the Tibetan area of China, Bolivia, and Ecuador that feature large populations living at high altitudes.
In Sichuan, China, 54% of 67 patients had no symptoms, according to the study, and less than 10% ever had a fever. About 10% did develop severe medical conditions, though all did recover.
In Bolivia, infection rates in higher altitudes were three times lower than in lower altitudes. In Ecuador, they were four times lower, the study showed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted, however, high altitudes also are typically colder and less humid, which also could play a factor in whether a person contracts a virus. Other factors experts have pointed to include genetics and lifestyle choices.
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