Pavel Daryl Kem Senou, a Cameroonian student in China “became the first African person known to be infected with the deadly coronavirus and the first to recover.”
(Cover Photo: Pavel Daryl Kem Senou recovering from Coronavirus in Chinese Hospital)
Some sources are claiming that African skin resists the coronavirus because of superior genetics. Is there truth to this?
This claim started because the first African to be infected with the Coronavirus, Pavel Daryl Kem Senou, responded well to medical treatment, unlike thousands of others (non-africans) who contracted the virus and died soon after.
One of the first Cameroonian general information websites reports, Journalducameroun.com reports, “The Chinese Embassy in Yaounde has announced that after receiving medical treatment, Pavel Daryl Kem Senou, Cameroonian student residing in China, recently infected with the Coronavirus pandemic is faring well.“
Does this mean Africans skin can resist the Coronavirus?
Snopes, a fact checking site says it’s a lie.
“…The website Cityscrollz.com falsely reported that a Cameroonian college student studying in China contracted coronavirus but recovered “because of his blood genetic composition which is mainly found in the genetic composition of subsaharan Africans.”
If such a claim, that people from African backgrounds are more resistant to coronavirus than others, were true, one would expect it to be a major news story. Instead, it’s being reported exclusively in viral social media posts and junk sites. That’s because it’s not true.
As of now, there seems to be little concrete evidence pointing to black people being able to resist the coronavirus 100%.
However, the benefits of melanin (internal and external) must be considered when talking about black people resisting the coronavirus. Sure that young Cameroonian student received medical treatment which obviously aided in the recovery, but did his high levels of melanin help him avoid death?
A study done by The National Center of Biological Health shows that melanin levels in an organism may affect the ability to resist disease and viruses.
“Once exposed to parasites, individuals often vary in their physiological ability to resist the infection either by killing or removing parasites. Melanin-based coloration could have several influences here.”
The report goes on to say, ” melanin is tightly linked to the immune system, for instance, through pleiotropic effects of melanocortins that can bind to various receptors in the skin and in the immune cells. This could enable differently coloured individuals to mount different immune responses and limit parasite proliferation.“
So although Africans and other black people may not be 100% resistant to the virus, melanin levels do play a significant factor in why Africans and other black people who have been exposed to the virus have not become infected or dead at least not at the same rate of people with lower levels of melanin.
What is the Coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization (who.com), “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).“