5 Genes Linked To Higher Risk Of Severe COVID-19 Case

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Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Scientists who studied the DNA of nearly 3,000 coronavirus patients in the United Kingdom found five genes are associated with having a severe case of COVID-19, Reuters reports.

The researchers’ results were published Friday in Nature after analyzing the DNA of 2,700 patients across 208 intensive care units (ICU) in the U.K., according to Reuters. The five genes linked to these severe COVID-19 cases are connected to molecular processes surrounding antiviral immunity and lung inflammation, Reuters says.

“Our results immediately highlight which drugs should be at the top of the list for clinical testing,” Kenneth Baillie, one of the lead researchers on the project and academic consultant in critical care medicine at Edinburgh University, said.

“We know that human populations have a very diverse range of responses to infections,” Baillie said, according to Nature. “Some people will be remarkably unaffected, and some people will become very sick, which is exactly what we are seeing with SARS-CoV-2,” he added.

Baillie announced the names of the genes — IFNAR2, TYK2, OAS1, DPP9 and CCR2 — that could help explain why some fall deathly ill to the coronavirus while others show no symptoms whatsoever.

Using this research, scientists can find and develop drugs that specifically target the molecular systems these genes are associated with in order to treat patients, Reuters reported. Baillie said one class of drugs that merits more attention given the results of this study are called JAK inhibitors, according to Reuters. An example of a drug that falls under the JAK inhibitor classification is Eli Lily’s arthritis drug baricitinib. (RELATED: It’ll Be Easy To Skip The Line, Bypass Priority Groups For Coronavirus Vaccine, Experts Warn)

Treatments that increase the activity of the INFAR2 gene could also be successful in combating severe COVID-19 cases, Reuters reports.

As it stands now, a steroid called dexamethasone and remdesivir, an antiviral developed by Gilead, are the only drugs authorized to treat COVID-19 patients worldwide, according to Reuters. However, other drugs, such as interferon-beta-1a, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and the arthritis drug Kevzara are being studied for effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients, Reuters reports.