Mutations found that increase the risk of death from COVID-19

British scientists have identified five genetic mutations that increase the likelihood of death in coronavirus infected up to 13 times. The results of the study are published on the scientific portal medRxiv.

“We discovered five variations in four genes that” control “the likelihood of death from COVID-19, and also estimated their prevalence in the British population,” the authors of the study write.

These mutations are quite rare, and all of them are associated with a loss of ability to control the immune and stress response to the penetration of coronavirus into the body, scientists say.

In recent months, scientists have identified factors associated with the likelihood of infection, severity and risk of death. So, COVID-19 is the most dangerous for older people suffering from diseases of the cardiovascular system, diabetes, overweight, carriers of the second blood group and people with a mutation in the APOE gene. The latter is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

During the study, a team of scientists led by Julian Gau of the Laboratory for Molecular Biology at the British Council for Medical Research examined the data collected by the UK BioBank project and identified four more genetic risk factors.

UK BioBank has collected data from 400 thousand Britons. As part of the project, participants underwent a comprehensive examination and DNA analysis. Some of them could become infected with a coronavirus infection, scientists suggested.

As part of the study, they tested almost six thousand UK BioBank participants for coronavirus, and also studied mortality statistics from COVID-19 in Britain. Among the examined patients, approximately 1.4 thousand suffered an infection, another 193 died.

Biologists compared sets of small mutations between the dead and recovered participants in the study. This revealed genetic differences affecting the risk of death from coronavirus.

In total, five mutations were found in four genes – ERAP2, BRF2, TMEM181 and ALOXE3, which increase the likelihood of dying from COVID-19 by five to thirteen times. According to scientists, all these genes affect the production of antibodies, suppression of stress and the regulation of the immune response to the appearance of viruses in the body.

It is noteworthy that among Europeans, such genetic changes occur in the genomes of 0.1-0.6 percent of cases, while ALOXE3 variation is observed in seven percent of African immigrants. This, scientists say, can explain the greater vulnerability of Africans to COVID-19.

Scientists are confident that their discovery will allow to evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccines and drugs from SARS-CoV-2.
The coronavirus pandemic swept almost the whole world. Currently, more than 11.3 million infections have been recorded. Almost 532 thousand people became victims of the virus.