Large ge­n­omic analysis high­lights COVID-19 risk factors

Findings from an international collaboration, initiated at FIMM, uncovers several genetic markers associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 severity. The findings have been published in the high-impact journal, Nature

2021.08.11 | Mari Kaunisto/FIMM

COVID 19. Image from Unsplash.com

Note: This article originally appeared on fimm.fi (read the original article)


In March of 2020, thousands of scientists around the world united to answer a pressing and complex question: what genetic factors influence why some COVID-19 patients develop severe, life-threatening disease requiring hospitalization, while others escape with mild symptoms or none at all?

A comprehensive summary of their findings to date, published in Nature, reveals 13 loci, or locations in the human genome, that are strongly associated with infection or severe COVID-19. The researchers also identified causal factors such as smoking and high body mass index. These results come from one of the largest genome-wide association studies ever performed, which includes nearly 50,000 COVID-19 patients and two million uninfected controls. 

The findings could help provide targets for future therapies and illustrate the power of genetic studies in learning more about infectious disease. 

This global effort, called the COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative, was founded in March 2020 by Andrea Ganna, group leader at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki and Mark Daly, director of FIMM and institute member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. The initiative has grown to be one of the most extensive collaborations in human genetics and currently includes more than 3,300 authors and 61 studies from 25 countries.

Ben Neale, co-director of the Program in Medical and Population Genetics at the Broad and co-senior author of the study, said that while vaccines confer protection against infection, there is still substantial room for improvement in COVID-19 treatment, which can be informed by genetic analysis. He added that improving treatment approaches could help shift the pandemic — which has necessitated large shutdowns in much of the world — to an endemic disease that is more localized and present at low but consistent levels in the population, much like the flu.

“The better we get at treating COVID-19, the better equipped the medical community could be to manage the disease,” he said. “If we had a mechanism of treating infection and getting someone out of the hospital, that would radically alter our public health response.”

Read the rest of the article at: https://www2.helsinki.fi/en/news/health-news/large-genomic-analysis-highlights-covid-19-risk-factors

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