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Scientists close on genetic susceptibility to virus

Tuesday February 23rd 2021

Scientists may be close to developing tools to undertake genetic profiling of those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, it was announced today.

Russian scientists say the key is to analyse individual T cell immunity profiles, determined by the six human leukocyte antigen class I molecules (HLA-1) that are unique in all humans and genetically inherited.

They have reported their findings in Frontiers in Immunology.

The work at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow was based on a study of patients in Moscow and a second sample from Madrid, Spain.

The researchers say they have been able to develop risk scores, ranging from zero to 100, based on the ability of the HLA-1 molecules to undertake fast detection of the virus.

Researcher Alexander Tonevitsky said: “In addition to the discovered correlations between the genotype and COVID-19 severity, the suggested approach also helps to evaluate how a certain COVID-19 mutation can affect the development of T-cell immunity to the virus. For example, we will be able to detect groups of patients for whom infection with new strains of SARS-CoV-2 can lead to more severe forms of the disease.”

* A second study in Austria points to a receptor for natural killer cells as a key factor in developing severe disease.

About 4% of the population lacks the NKG2C receptor and it only partially functions in another 30%, according to researchers at MedUni Vienna.

They have reported their findings in Genetics in Medicine.

Researcher Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl said: "Absence of the receptor was particularly prevalent in COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care units, irrespective of age or gender. Genetic variations on the HLA-E of the infected cell were also associated with disease severity, albeit to a lesser extent."

Frontiers in Immunology 23 February 2021

[abstract]

Deletion of the NKG2C receptor encoding KLRC2 gene and HLA-E variants are risk factors for severe COVID-19. Genet Med. 26 January 2021

[abstract]

Tags: Europe | Flu & Viruses | Genetics

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