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UCSD scientists study why some people have never had COVID-19

If you never had COVID, researchers say you're in the minority. The CDC says the majority of Americans have caught coronavirus since 2020.

SAN DIEGO — Knock on wood, Marianna Eledge, who works downtown at the San Diego County Administration Building, has never had coronavirus.

“I work with the public with a lot of people coming in, and we don't know if they are vaccinated or not. I'm vaccinated and boosted,” said Eledge.

Eledge credits good genes and hygiene that have kept her from getting sick even though she got the flu and had a flu shot.

"I wear my mask when I am on public transportation or in crowded areas, I do a lot of handwashing, a lot of sanitizing, and we keep our distance,” said Eledge.

Researchers with the CDC would say Eledge is in the minority, as most Americans have had coronavirus since it began to spread in the U.S. in 2020.

"We still try to be very cautious, we were wearing masks, but we still ultimately got it, me and my wife,” said Jonny Brown, who lives in San Diego but is originally from England.

Brown had COVID in January. Now, the new father of a 3-week-old baby girl says he does not take any chances and avoids large crowds.

"If someone hasn't gotten it yet, that is great, but it's pretty difficult at this point,” said Brown.

Scientists around the world are studying those who have never had COVID to see what is in their body that is giving them immunity and if it could be a rare genetic variant.

"I am sure that there are people out there who are built, or who will not get coronavirus, and why that is, I do not know,” said Davey Smith, Chief of Infectious Diseases at University of California San Diego. “But that is the reason why we do science, and if it is something that we can make a drug from, that mimics that, then that would be great, and if we could make a vaccine that could mimic that, then we would all benefit,”

Dr. Smith says scientists are looking for answers in those who were never infected with COVID, as they've done with HIV, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.

"For HIV, we actually learned that there were a group of people who are naturally resistant to HIV, and once we figured out why that was, drug companies actually made a drug targeting that particular molecule that protected people from getting HIV,” said Dr. Smith.

UCSD is conducting cohort studies, where doctors follow a group of people over time to see who gets sick and who doesn't based on COVID exposure and vaccination status.

"It is a good idea to go look for why people are naturally resistant to certain things. It’s helped us before in designing drugs and a vaccine, and perhaps with the situation with COVID, it can help us with that too,” said Dr. Smith.

Eledge says she hopes there are more people like her, who are not going to get it, and that it continues.

WATCH RELATED: Uptick in COVID-19 cases across San Diego County (May 2022)