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Genes point to severe COVID illness

Monday December 14th 2020

Scottish researchers have identified five genes linked to patients developing the most severe forms of COVID-19, it has been announced.

The genes are involved in antiviral immunity and lung inflammation, according to researchers at Edinburgh University.

The findings come from a study of genes from 2,700 patients who received care in 208 intensive care units in the UK.

The genes are IFNAR2, TYK2, OAS1, DPP9 and CCR2, the researchers reported in Nature.

One of the findings is that JAK inhibitors, such as baricitinib, could reduce activity in TYK2 whilst boosting IFNAR2 might also help, they report.

Researcher Dr Kenneth Baillie said: "This is a stunning realisation of the promise of human genetics to help understand critical illness. Just like in sepsis and influenza, in COVID-19, damage to the lungs is caused by our own immune system, rather than the virus itself. Our genetic results provide a roadmap through the complexity of immune signals, showing the route to key drug targets.

"Our results immediately highlight which drugs should be at the top of the list for clinical testing. We can only test a few drugs at a time, so making the right choices will save thousands of lives.”

* A second study has ruled out a connection between the virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Researchers at University College London reported their findings in Brain yesterday, reporting a halving in cases of the syndrome in the UK this year.

Genetic mechanisms of critical illness in COVID-19. Nature 11 December 2020

[abstract]

Tags: Flu & Viruses | Genetics | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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