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Scientists determine genetic variants that play a part in increasing the risk of getting severe COVID-19

So far, eight such links have been discovered

We are far from understanding the true nature of COVID-19 despite being ravaged by the contagious virus for almost a year. But scientists have taken a step forwards in finding out why the disease affects some of the patients more severely. A study was conducted on thousands of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and scientists uncovered eight genetic sequences that are common in people whose life had been put in danger.

The next step

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The study was conducted on 2,244 critically ill patients from 208 ICUs in the UK. After their DNA was put through a genome-wide association study (GWAS), eight genetic sequences were found. Five of these were replicated in a meta-analysis of COVID-19 patients from the COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative and 23andMe Inc’s broad respiratory phenotype.

The genes involved played a part in inflammatory processes and how the body responds to disease-causing viruses. David Strain, the clinical senior lecturer of the University of Exeter and the British Medical Association said that the TYK2 gene plays a part in inflammatory responses known to cause the ‘cytokine storm,’ something that causes the death of younger patients who get COVID-19.

He also spoke about the relation between severe COVID-19 and genetically predisposed obesity, saying that lifestyle changes may not cause an impact on COVID-19 outcomes.

There are still parts left for the study to look into, but for now, it suggests that there are two biological mechanisms behind critical illness. The first is in the early stages, on how the body’s initial immune responses to the virus, and the second is how the body’s inflammatory processes react in the late stages.

The findings have been published in the science magazine Nature. 

 

(Cover: Getty)

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