New study boosts theory that genetic makeup plays role in COVID-19 severity

Coronavirus particles.
(Image credit: NIAID-RML via AP)

Certain gene variants were more common among COVID-19 patients in intensive care, a team of scientists in Europe recently found. Published Friday in Nature, their research boosts previous studies that suggested genetic makeup plays a role in the severity of coronavirus infections, The Washington Post reports.

In what's known as a genome-wide association study, the scientists compared the genes of 2,000 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units across the United Kingdom and compared them to healthy people. It's not the first study to look into the matter, but it's considered "the biggest published to date of its kind."

The purpose of the research is to help find effective COVID-19 therapies. Kenneth Bailee, a University of Edinburgh clinical researcher and one of the study authors, said "at this scale, we can see the effect of these variations, so we can directly predict the effect of drugs that hit the immune system in the same place." Still, the Post notes, experts have cautioned that targeting certain genes is no guarantee for success; rather, genetics studies "help us find very specific starting points" for further investigation. Read more at The Washington Post.

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