Mark Caulfield, Queen Mary’s Vice-Principal for Health, led a team that discovered 16 new genetic variations linked to severe COVID-19, including those related to blood clotting, immunological response, and inflammation. Experts say the research published today in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nature will pave the way for future research into new medicines and diagnostics.
Genetic study of severe COVID-19
The study results came from sequencing the genomes of 7,491 patients from 224 UK intensive care units. Their DNA was compared to 48,400 people without COVID-19, 100,000 Genomes Project participants, and 1,630 people with mild COVID-19, according to the Queen Mary University of London.
The team used the whole genome sequences of all participants to generate an accurate map and find genetic variation connected to Covid-19 severity. The study detected important differences in 16 genes between ICU patients and other groups and validated the presence of seven other genetic variations previously associated with severe COVID-19.
The report also stated that a single gene variation that affects interferon alpha-10, a crucial messenger molecule in immune system signaling, was enough to increase a patient’s risk of severe disease. Thus, treating patients with interferon may help manage illness in its early phases.
In Covid-19, changes in genes that affect levels of a key blood-clotting component known as Factor 8 were linked to serious disease. This may explain some clotting problems found with severe COVID-19 patients. Factor 8 is the most prevalent hemophilia gene.
“We were able to deliver this study in record time, and we’ve found a lot of things for a relatively modest sample size; we have one proof of concept for a therapy where the addition of genomic data has migrated into a clinical trial outcome result, and we may be able to better prevent mortality,” said Caulfield, as per QMUL.
COVID-19 cases decrease by 19% worldwide
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest report on the coronavirus pandemic shows that the number of new COVID-19 cases worldwide has decreased by 19 percent in the past week, but recorded deaths have remained consistent.
As mentioned by Aljazeera, over 16 million new cases and less than 75,000 new fatalities were reported worldwide during the week of February 7 to February 13 by the UN health agency.
Occurrences of new weekly cases rose by about 19 percent in the Western Pacific region. In the WHO’s six regions, Southeast Asia saw the largest drop, with a decrease of about 37%. It was shown that Russia has the newest cases of COVID-19. In recent weeks, the number of cases in Eastern Europe has more than doubled due to an increase in the highly contagious Omicron variant.