Scientists have identified 16 new gene variants in people who developed severe COVID-19 in a large study that could help researchers develop treatments for very sick patients.
The results suggest that people with severe COVID have genes that predispose them to one of two problems: an inability to limit the ability of the virus to make copies of itself, or excessive inflammation and blood clotting.
The scientists said their findings, published in the journal Nature, would help prioritize potential treatments that might work against the disease.
Eventually, the information could even help predict which patients were likely to become seriously ill.
“It is potentially possible that in the future we will be able to make predictions about patients based on their genome at the time they present (for) critical care,” Kenneth Baillie, a consultant in critical care medicine at the University of Edinburgh and one of the study authors.
Genetic analysis of nearly 56,000 samples from people in Britain showed differences in 23 genes in severely ill COVID-19 patients, compared with DNA from other groups included in the study, including 16 differences that had not been previously identified. .
The new findings could help guide scientists in their search for existing drugs that may be useful in treating COVID-19.
For example, the researchers found changes in key genes that regulate the level of factor VIII, a protein involved in the formation of blood clots.
“Blood clotting is one of the main reasons why COVID patients develop a shortage of oxygen. So that’s potentially a target to prevent those clots from forming,” Baillie said.
But “we can’t know if these drugs will work until we test them in people.”
One of the previously discovered genes, TYK2, is the target of Eli Lilly’s arthritis drug baricitinib, now being studied as a treatment for COVID-19.
Last week the drug was shown to reduce the risk of death and hospitalization in COVID-19 patients by 13% in a trial.
Ricardo is a renowned author and journalist, known for his exceptional writing on top-news stories. He currently works as a writer at the 247 News Agency, where he is known for his ability to deliver breaking news and insightful analysis on the most pressing issues of the day.