Gene associated with doubling the risk of COVID-19 death found by UK …

(Adds details from the Oxford Declaration)

November 5 (Reuters) – British researchers have identified a gene that doubles the risk of dying from COVID-19, providing new insights into why some people are more susceptible to the disease than others, while opening up opportunities for targeted medicine.

About 60% of people with South Asian ancestry carry the high-risk gene, researchers at Oxford University said on Friday, adding that the discovery partly explains the high number of deaths seen in some British communities and the impact of COVID-19 in the Indian subcontinent.

The researchers found that the increased risk is not due to a difference in genetic coding of the proteins, but due to differences in the DNA that make a kind of “switch” to turn on a gene.

The genetic signal is likely to affect cells in the lungs, while a higher risk version of the identified gene, called LZTFL1, may prevent the cells in the airways and lungs from responding properly to the virus.

However, the higher-risk gene does not affect the body’s immune system, producing antibodies to fight infections, researchers said, adding that the people who carry this version of the gene should normally respond to vaccines.

“(The study) shows that the way the lung responds to the infection is critical. This is important because most treatments have focused on changing the way the immune system responds to the virus,” says Professor James Davies, co-chair. of the study.

The results were published in the journal Nature Genetics. (Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Anil D’Silva)

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