Scientists discover five genes that put you most at risk of severe Covid

SCIENTISTS have discovered five genes that put you most at risk of catching a severe case of coronavirus.

UK researchers said this sheds light on what underpins severe coronavirus symptoms and could lead to potential new drug treatments for the killer bug.

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Dr Baillie and his team did the study on 2,244 critically ill patients with Covid-19 from 208 intensive care units across the UK.

Researchers compared the genetic information of Covid-19 patients in ICU with samples from healthy volunteers from other studies.

The team found that variations in five genes – IFNAR2, TYK2, OAS1, DPP9 and CCR2 – was associated with patients developing a severe illness with Covid-19.

The scientists said that they were able to pinpoint that antiviral immunity and lung inflammation are associated with the genes.

Innate antiviral defences are known to be important early in the disease while the inflammatory processes triggered by the infection are a key feature of severe Covid-19, the researchers said.

The research, which was published in Nature, is not aimed at trying to predict who is likely to get critically ill with coronavirus.

The study focuses more on finding "biological clues that will lead us to effective treatments" to see how patients respond to certain drugs.

The team said further clinical trials should focus on drugs that target specific antiviral and anti-inflammatory pathways.

Dr Kenneth Baillie, the project's chief investigator and senior research fellow at University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, said: "This is a stunning realisation of the promise of human genetics to help understand critical illness.

"Just like in sepsis and influenza – in Covid-19 – damage to the lungs is caused by our own immune system, rather than the virus itself.

"Our genetic results provide a roadmap through the complexity of immune signals, showing the route to key drug targets.

"Our results immediately highlight which drugs should be at the top of the list for clinical testing.

"We can only test a few drugs at a time, so making the right choices will save thousands of lives."

Dr David Strain, clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, described the research as "incredibly interesting".

But he added that the implications for the findings are limited, saying: "These data are useful for predicting those that are at risk, however the majority of us do not know what our genes look like.

"In the near future, however, the additional interest may arise from a greater understanding about what these genes do.

"A knowledge of what they do may lead to greater opportunities to develop future treatments."

The minister for innovation, Lord Bethell, said: "Covid-19 is the biggest public health challenge we have faced in a century.

"As each day passes, we are learning more about this virus, supported by incredible advancements from scientists across the UK.

"As we pull together to tackle this unprecedented pandemic, it's clear we are on the front foot with our research.

"Research like this is a big step forward in going further to advance our understanding of Covid-19 to help us protect the most vulnerable – ultimately saving lives across the world."

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