Depending on several factors such as fitness, pre-existing conditions, and age among others, symptoms brought about by COVID-19 will differ for each individual. However, a common complication experienced by most is breathing difficulties. While some cases will eventually require the use of ventilators, others can manage with supplemental oxygen treatments. Now, a new study supposedly shows a remarkable observation wherein people who reside in high altitude locations are more resistant to the severe effects of the 2019 novel coronavirus.

It has been established by experts that the higher individuals go, the oxygen levels are likewise lower. However, those who live in elevated areas have evidently developed a biological trait which allows them to survive in these environments. Among those observed by researchers are improved ventilation, higher tissue oxygenation, and excellent oxygen transport in their arteries, reports Fox News.

The countries included in the study are Ecuador, Bolivia, and the Tibetan region of China. The team compared COVID-19 cases from both the lowland area and the highlands as well. The data shows that one-half of Ecuador's population lives in high-altitude, while one-third of Bolivia's territory is likewise located high up from sea level. Finally, Tibet's average elevation is around 4,000 meters. Surprisingly, infections recorded for the latter does not seem to follow the global trend.

It appears that these places have never seen exponential infection rates akin to that of other countries around the world. Meanwhile, comparisons between those living in the highlands and lowlands show a noteworthy difference. Another interesting finding is that the people in high-altitude areas have low levels of Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors in their lungs. This makes it difficult for SARS-CoV-2 to bind properly to its host's system.

Health workers  assist a COVID-19 patient
Health workers assist a COVID-19 patient at the Gilberto Novaes Municipal Hospital in Manaus, Brazil. Photo: AFP / MICHAEL DANTAS

Aside from the unique traits of the aforementioned inhabitants, another theory speculated that the higher ultraviolet radiation effectively kills the virus compared to areas barely above sea level. The study has been submitted and is pending the approval of other experts, but it does present a possible advantage for those living in high-altitude locations around the globe. Researchers continue to discover new details about the 2019 nCoV that will hopefully aid in the development of treatments and vaccines down the line.