Scientists have identified a specific gene that doubles the risk of respiratory failure caused by Covid-19 and could explain why some ethnic groups are more prone than others to serious illness, writes Bloomberg, quoted by Mediafax.
Researchers at Oxford University have found that a higher-risk version of the gene most likely prevents airway and lung cells from responding properly to the virus. About 60 percent of people of South Asian descent carry this version of the gene, compared to 15 percent of people of European descent, according to a study released Thursday.
The findings help explain why higher hospitalization and death rates may have occurred in some communities and on the Indian subcontinent. The authors warned that the gene cannot be used as the only explanation, because many other factors, such as socio-economic conditions, play a role. Despite a significant impact from the virus on people of Afro-Caribbean descent, only 2% are carriers of the higher-risk genotype.
People with this gene, known as LZTFL1, would benefit from vaccination, which remains the best method of protection, the authors said. The findings raise the possibility of researching specific treatments for patients with this gene, although there are currently no adapted drugs.
The researchers found the gene using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and molecular technology
This “shows that the way the lungs respond to infection is essential,” said James Davies, co-lead author and associate professor of genomics at Oxford, who worked in intensive care during the pandemic. “This is important because most treatments have focused on changing the way the immune system reacts to the virus.”
Davies and colleagues found the gene using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and molecular technology. The team trained an algorithm to analyze large amounts of genetic data from hundreds of cell types throughout the body, and then used a new technique that allowed them to focus on the DNA behind this specific genetic signal. .
Editor: Liviu Cojan