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Genetic factors in SARS-CoV-2 infection

One of the most remarkable characteristics of infection by SARS-CoV-2 is the large range of symptoms that it can cause, from asymptomatic infection to people dying from respiratory distress. Although we already know that environmental and social factors play an important role in people’s sensitivity to SARS-CoV-2, the role of genetic factors has just recently been analysed by a study involving international research collaboration.

The researchers grouped the results of 46 studies carried out in 19 countries (from different continents). By comparing the genomes of patients with COVID-19 and other healthy individuals, they were able to highlight 13 positions in the genome (loci) linked to COVID-19, without any difference between men and women. 9 of these 13 loci were able to be linked to an increased risk of developing a severe form of the illness. Several of these loci have already been described as being linked to inflammatory or auto-immune diseases.

The researchers noted that some of these patient gene loci are spatially close, and all are located near a gene coding for a cellular protein interacting with the ACE2 cell receptor, which is essential for the entry of the virus into the cell. These could be human genes that may code for proteins necessary for the virus to pass the cell barrier.

In this study, the scientists were able to map genetic factors in the host linked to SARS-CoV-2 infection, or to the disease’s severity. This data provides a better understanding of the biological mechanisms involved in a treatment’s effectiveness for instance,  but also, through subtraction, the role of environmental factors.

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