Some people are twice as susceptible to Covid as others, according to study of patients from most major UK hospitals during the pandemic
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British scientists leading the world’s largest genetic study of Covid-19 say they could eliminate all deaths in intensive care from the virus.
The researchers recruited patients from most major UK countries hospital during the pandemic and found that some people are twice as likely to contract the virus.
They compared the whole genome sequences of about 7,000 critically ill patients with Coronavirus with approximately 48,000 matched individuals.
About 16 new genetic variants associated with Covid-19including those related to coagulation, immune responses, and inflammation, have been identified.
The findings from Genomics England and the University of Edinburgh offer a “roadmap” for future drugs as well as ways to flag people who are likely to become seriously ill.
According to John Hopkins University in the US, the global death toll from Covid-19 has passed six million.
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Lead investigator Professor Kenneth Baillie, of the University of Edinburgh, said: “These results explain why some people develop life-threatening Covid-19 while others have no symptoms at all. .
“During Covid [patients] it’s the damaged lung caused by the patient’s own immune system destroying the organ.
“The rationale behind this is that as long as we understand the process well, we can stop the immune system from causing damage to the organ, without shutting it down completely and allowing an infection to develop.”
He added: “For the first time in the history of critical healthcare medicine, we have demonstrated that an infectious disease causing organ failure is treatable by suppressing the immune system.
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“That’s the reason to try to reduce mortality to zero, especially in the intensive care group. That should be what we are aiming for now.”
The huge genetic study was set up in 2015 to identify Britons at higher risk of certain diseases.
It was quickly replaced to look at Covid-19 from the start of the pandemic, and Genomics England sequenced the genomes of 7,491 patients from 224 UK intensive care units.
Their DNA was compared with that of 48,400 other people without Covid-19, participants of the Genomics England 100,000 Genomes Project, and of 1,630 others who had experienced mild Covid.
The team found key differences in 16 genes in the ICU patients when compared with the DNA of other groups.
They also confirmed the involvement of seven other genetic variants that had been linked to severe Covid-19 detected in earlier studies from the same group.
Existing drugs undergoing trials, such as one called Baricitinib, will now be fast-tracked if findings show they target the right genes.
Medications are available for conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and arthritis can also be substituted for Covid-19.
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If quickly made available to patients vulnerable to Covid-19, it is hoped such drugs could prevent patients from ending up in the ICU with the virus fighting for their lives.
In general, patients who die of Covid-19 in the ICU are on average younger because many very elderly people do not outgrow it.
Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium, said the findings of the international team would ultimately help “minimize the impact on humanity from Covid-19”.
“This study using whole-genome sequencing has paved the way for major advances in our understanding of why some people get so sick with Covid-19,” she said.
A single gene variant disrupts an important messenger molecule in the immune system called interferon alpha-10 enough to increase a patient’s risk of severe disease.
This highlights the important role genes play in the immune system and suggests that treating patients with interferon – a protein secreted by immune cells to protect against viruses – could help control the disease in early stage.
The study also found that variants in a gene that controls levels of a central component of blood clotting – called Factor 8 – are associated with critical illness in Covid-19.
This may explain some of the clotting abnormalities seen in severe cases of Covid-19. Factor 8 is the gene underlying the most common type of hemophilia.
Drugs currently being tested target some of these genetic variants.
Co-author Professor Sir Mark Caulfield from Queen Mary University of London, formerly Chief Scientist at Genomics UK, said: “This is a really important study because today we widen our roles. The role of whole genome sequencing in curing rare diseases and cancers, which are inherent in us NHSto infectious disease and how we respond to exposure to a virus that none of us knew about two and a half years ago.
“As Covid-19 develops, we need to focus on reducing the number of people who become seriously ill and hospitalized.
“We have discovered new gene variants that make people seriously ill.
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“This now provides a roadmap for new tests and treatments to help protect the public and the NHS from this virus. This is an important finding.”
The technique could also point to better treatments for other diseases, the researchers say sepsis and flu.
Professor Baillie added: “This gives us insight into the disease process and is a big step forward in finding more effective treatments.
“It is right now to say that we understand the mechanism of Covid better than the other syndromes we treat in intensive care in normal times – sepsis, influenza and other life-threatening illnesses.
“Covid-19 is showing us how to solve those problems in the future.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/covid-scientists-leading-virus-study-26406964 Scientists leading Covid virus research say they could eliminate all ICU deaths