Scientists may have unlocked the genetic mysteries of Covid-19 and why, by finding five genes that may make sufferers more prone to symptoms, some people are affected by the virus worse than others.
University of Edinburgh researchers analyzed DNA from 2,700 patients from 208 intensive care units around the UK who had tested positive for Covid-19.
With 22% of patients dying while suffering from the virus, and 74% of those surveyed needing support to breathe via devices, the subjects were those worst affected by the virus.
Scientists then compared 100,000 unidentified members of the public to the DNA of those in the sample and found five genes in common with those worst affected by the virus.
It is now hoped that research will be used to classify, based on their DNA, the most appropriate medications and therapies needed by patients.
TYK2, CCR2, OAS1, IFNAR2, and DPP9 are referred to as the known genes.
Dr. Kenneth Baillie, who led the report, told the Daily Mail: “We predict that JAK inhibitors should provide [Covid-19] patients with benefits that should reduce their likelihood of developing lung inflammation that is life-threatening.”
Our findings instantly illustrate which medicines should be at the top of the clinical research list. There are only a few medications we can test at a time, but making the right decisions will save thousands of lives.
It’s completely surprising that we saw this outcome so soon after the outbreak began.
It took six months for this outcome to be discovered, so we don’t have the amount of biological understanding we see every year about sepsis or influenza or other types of critical disease.
“It’s a really important kind of evidence, it’s very strong causal evidence. It was a kind of evidence we have been crying out for in critical care medicine for decades and it is completely astonishing we have got it already for Covid.”
Nature Scientific Journals have now published the results provided by the research.
Of the genes known, TYK2 is located in the human body on chromosome 19 and produces an enzyme that can contribute to inflammation.
The researchers thought that baricitinib, a JAK inhibitor used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, could be used to treat TYK2.
DPP9 is also present on chromosome 19, but researchers are not yet sufficiently aware of the gene to understand what would be the best treatment for it but believe that the gene could lead to symptoms of ‘long Covid.’
On chromosome 4, CCR2 is located with the researchers recognizing drugs that are already used to treat psoriasis as effective in treating the gene.
OAS1 is located on chromosome 12 and is already known to be susceptible to other coronavirus types, but there is still no treatment available.
And on chromosome 21, the IFNAR2 gene is located and is essential to helping the normal antiviral response of the body recognise that a virus needs to be targeted.
The researchers found that if not treated early, the IFNAR2 gene would lead to the body’s immune system attacking itself.