Researchers compared 500,000 genes from people who had #COVID19 with 2 million who did not, & identified 13 genetic variations that can make one more susceptible to COVID19. Some gene regions are linked to the immune response & others to lung function.
The COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative, a collaboration of more than 3,000 scientists from 25 countries, found that variations in six regions of the genetic code were linked with severe COVID-19, and seven could make people more susceptible to catching the virus.
The researchers looked at 46 studies from 19 countries and compared the genetic code of about 50,000 people who had COVID-19 with 2 million people who hadn't. Those with COVID-19 were split into three groups based on severity of their disease.
Nine of the regions had a clear biological explanation - some linked to the immune response and others to lung biology.
One region is associated with lung cancer and interstitial lung disease, and another with the autoimmune conditions hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis, the authors wrote in a paper published in Nature on Thursday.
Andrea Ganna, senior researcher at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, who led the study, told Insider that "everyone talks about the virus genome but the human genome matters."
"Usually when performing genetic analysis, there's a lot of variation but it's not clear what the genes do so it's exciting to have plausible biological explanations for the differences observed," he said, adding that further work was needed.
Ganna said that the work included underrepresented countries such as Jordan, Iran, Latvia and Pakistan, which enabled the group to find genes linked with COVID-19 that they wouldn't have otherwise. For example, two of the genetic regions that the group identified occurred in less than 3% of the European population in the dataset, but 32% of the East Asia population in the dataset.
Ganna said that the group has now examined the genes of 125,000 people with COVID-19 and found 10 more variations in the genetic code linked with COVID-19, bringing the total to 23. One was the ACE-2 COVID-19 receptor, the part of the human cell that the virus binds to, he said.
This part of the group's research hasn't been scrutinized by experts in a peer-review.
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