The Conundrum of Giglio Island: Unraveling the dynamics of an apparent resistance to COVID-19 - A descriptive study

Comput Struct Biotechnol J. 2021:19:1467-1471. doi: 10.1016/j.csbj.2021.02.008. Epub 2021 Mar 2.


Objectives: Despite an extensive risk of exposure to COVID-19, the residents of Giglio Island, Italy, did not develop any symptom of SARS-CoV-2. The present study aims to characterize the nature of exposure and to describe the local population dynamics underlying its apparent resistance to COVID-19.

Methods: Descriptive study of an islander partially-segregated population cohort based on a seroprevalence screening conducted from Aprile 29 to May 3, 2020 and including SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence and viral prevalence in samples of saliva assessed through RT-qPCR. Serologic testing was performed using a COVID-19 IgG/IgM rapid test while molecular analyses were carried out by Allplex 2019-nCoV Assay (Seegene).

Results: A total of 634 residents out of 748 (84.8%) present at the time, and 89 non-residents underwent serological testing. 364 males and 359 females with a median age of 58.5 years. The serological screening identified one positive, asymptomatic subject. The Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAAT) did not yield any positive result.

Conclusion: Despite extensive exposure to SARS-CoV-2, possibly only one new asymptomatic infection occurred in this population, as documented by IgM positivity not confirmed by RT-qPCR. This may be due to unknown protective factors or chance. On the basis of this baseline study, using its population as a reference model, further investigations will be conducted to test the advanced hypotheses, focusing on the evaluation of a possible cross-reactivity to SARS-CoV-2 from exposure to endemic viruses.

Keywords: COVID-19; Giglio Island; SARS-CoV-2.