Your genes could determine whether coronavirus puts you in the hospital — and we’re starting to unravel which ones matter
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May 5, 2020
When some people become infected with the coronavirus, they only develop mild or undetectable cases of COVID-19. Others suffer severe symptoms, fighting to breathe on a ventilator for weeks, if they survive at all.
Despite a concerted global scientific effort, doctors still lack a clear picture of why this is.
Could genetic differences explain the differences we see in symptoms and severity of COVID-19?
To test this, we used computer models to analyze known genetic variation within the human immune system. The results of our modeling suggest that there are in fact differences in people’s DNA that could influence their ability to respond to a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Based on our study, we think variation in HLA genes is part of the explanation for the huge differences in infection severity in many COVID-19 patients. These differences in the HLA genes are probably not the only genetic factor that affects severity of COVID-19, but they may be a significant piece of the puzzle. It is important to further study how HLA types can clinically affect COVID-19 severity and to test these predictions using real cases. Understanding how variation in HLA types may affect the clinical course of COVID-19 could help identify individuals at higher risk from the disease.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the relationship between viral proteins across a wide range of HLA alleles. Currently, we know very little about the relationship between many other viruses and HLA type. In theory, we could repeat this analysis to better understand the genetic risks of many viruses that currently or could potentially infect humans.
May 6, 2020 at 6:17 AM #312310Ohio BarbarianModerator
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Do people who don’t have the gene that triggers a quick immune response to coronaviruses get sicker if they are on medications that suppress the immune system? Do people who do have the gene get sick if they are taking such medications?
I ask because there are all sort of drugs out there, as seen on TV, that have that side-effect.
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