Scientists from around the world have been rigorously studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus since its outbreak in late 2019. Taking into consideration the magnitude of the pandemic, various studies have been undertaken, to better understand how, or what makes the virus so lethal in humans. Additionally, even after the development of the vaccine, there have been cases of infection and reinfection. Which has, at some point, caused severe implications in patients and even deaths. And left researchers in search of new answers.
With every new wave of the pandemic, there are developments in the virus (mutations) that researchers have been trying to study. However, very few nations have been able to successfully control the spread of the virus. This complicated nature of the pandemic, and the virus has led scientists to expand the scope of studies from just the virus to factorial causes in humans.
It is known that several risk factors such as age or underlying medical conditions (comorbidities) can be responsible for how severely the virus affects a person. However, until now little was known about how the human genome could play a role in responding to how severely a virus can impact a person.
But according to a new study published in Nature journal. Researchers identified thirteen locations in the human genes that affect COVID-19 susceptibility and severity.
What do we already know?
Scientists already know that human genes can influence the severity of infectious diseases, including infection with SARS-CoV-2. Medical science in recent years has also realised the role that genes play in identifying and treating different diseases. Genetic labs have been on the rise in the last decade, and genetic profiling has been considered an important means of protecting oneself against possible diseases.
The new research studies how genes play a role when interacting with rare to high-impact mutations in a virus (especially Covid-19). The difference between these mutations can change the way individuals develop mild or life-threatening illnesses. However, until now, the main focus of most infectious viruses was majorly been around studying micro-organisms.
About the study
To get a better understanding of how the genes react to the Covid-19 virus the researchers set up large collaborative units during the pandemic. More than 3000 researchers and clinicians collected data from over 46 studies internationally. The data involved more than 49,000 individuals who had the coronavirus infection. The study also bough together more than 2 million individuals in a controlled scenario across 19 countries.
They also collected data from across socio-demographic factors such as people with different risk factors, like age and sex to get a better understanding of their hypothesis. The patients were also divided into three groups such as — Infected people, people who needed hospitalisation and finally critically ill people.
This activity helped the researchers compare the genetic varients between infected people and the controlled groups. Which further helped them in better understanding and identifying 13 loci that can affect the severity of Covid-19 in a person.
How does this study help?
Considering that the virus has been emerging stronger with every new wave, the findings of the study can better help doctors understand and take necessary precautions towards preventing sever reactions in patients. It can also help alter treatments in a way to better combat the disease.