Scientists discover new gene differences in severe COVID-19 patients

Results suggest people with severe COVID-19 have genes that predispose them to one of two problems.

In a large study released on Monday, scientists identified 16 novel genetic variants in persons who acquired severe COVID-19, which could aid researchers in developing treatments for severely sick patients. According to the results, patients with severe COVID-19 have genes that predispose them to one of two problems: failure to limit the virus's ability to replicate itself or excessive inflammation and blood clotting. The researchers claimed their findings, which were published in the Nature journal, could help prioritize the most promising treatments for the disease. "It is potentially possible in future that we will be able to make predictions about patients based on their genome at the point of presenting (for) critical care," said Kenneth Baillie, consultant in critical care medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

When compared to the DNA of other groups included in the study, the genetic analysis of approximately 56,000 samples from persons in the United Kingdom revealed changes in 23 genes in COVID-19 patients who were severely ill, including 16 differences that had not previously been identified. The new findings could help guide scientists in their search for existing drugs that might be useful for treating COVID-19. Changes in critical genes that influence the quantity of factor VIII, a protein implicated in blood clotting, were discovered, for example. "Blood clotting is one of the main reasons why patients with COVID develop a shortage of oxygen. So that's potentially targetable to prevent those clots from forming," said Baillie.