Health

COVID-19: Protective gene variant discovered


In addition to old age and some underlying diseases, genetics can affect whether we are severely affected or only mildly ill from COVID-19. Previous studies in mainly people of European ancestry have found that individuals carrying a specific DNA fragment have a 20 percent lower risk of severe COVID-19 infection. This piece of DNA encodes genes in the immune system and was inherited from Neanderthals in about half of all people outside of Africa.

However, this region of DNA contains a great deal of genetic variation, which makes it challenging to classify the correct protective variant potentially as a medical therapeutic target against severe COVID-19 infection. .

To identify this specific gene variant, the researchers in the current study looked for individuals that carried only portions of this DNA fragment. Because Neandertal inheritance occurred after the ancient migration out of Africa, the researchers saw the potential to focus on individuals of African ancestry, who did not have Neanderthal heritage. and therefore also make up most of this DNA fragment. However, a small portion of this DNA region is the same in both African and European ancestry.

The researchers found that individuals of predominantly African ancestry had the same protections as individuals of European ancestry, which allowed them to pinpoint a particular gene variant that they care.

“The fact that individuals of African descent share the same protections allowed us to identify variation,” said Jennifer Huffman, first author of the study and a researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System. unique in DNA that actually protects against COVID-19 infection. United States

The analysis included a total of 2,787 hospitalized COVID-19 patients of African origin and 130,997 controls from six cohort studies. Eighty percent of individuals of African ancestry carry the protective variant. The results were compared with previously larger metastases of individuals of European heritage.

“We are beginning to understand in detail what genetic risk factors are,” said co-author Brent Richards, senior investigator at the Lady Davis Institute at Jewish General Hospital and a professor at McGill University. key to developing new drugs against COVID-19. Canada.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fostered significant collaboration among researchers in different parts of the world, which has made it possible to study genetic risk factors in a much more diverse population than in the past. many previous studies. Despite this, the majority of clinical studies are still being performed in predominantly European individuals.

“This study demonstrates the importance of including individuals of different ancestry. If we were to study only one group, we would not have been successful in identifying the gene variant in this case,” he said. the study’s corresponding author, Hugo Zeberg, assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet.

Source: Eurekalert

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