Mayo Clinic researchers say an individual’s genetic variations in the generation of two proteins may explain why some people become severely ill with COVID-19 while others experience mild or no symptoms.
A recent study from the Center for Individualized Medicine at the Mayo Clinic published in Human Molecular Genetics found that variations in the genes responsible for two proteins, ACE2 and TMPRESS2, can lead to varying severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection. , the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 .
An increase in ACE2 and TMPRESS2 proteins may lead to an increased risk of infection and severe disease, while a lower amount could protect against severe COVID-19, according to the study. Both proteins provide entry points for the coronavirus to infect human cells.
“COVID-19 is a frequency master at altering its gene sequences, but that only tells half the story,” Lingxin Zhang, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Our results suggest that the interaction of the virus with proteins encoded by the human genome may also contribute to a person’s disease outcome.”
Zhang said improving understanding of COVID-19 susceptibility could help indicate how sick a recently infected patient might become.
“I hope this methodology can be extended to other genes involved in COVID-19, and that scientists and clinicians around the world can use this information to help their patients,” Zhang added.
People at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection may receive antivirals and other treatments to lessen the severity of their illness. Often, the earlier a patient receives treatment, the more effective it is.
COVID-19 has sickened more than 571 million people worldwide, including 90.5 million in the United States, since the pandemic began in March 2020. There have been nearly 6.4 million confirmed deaths from COVID-19 worldwide, including over 1 million in the United States.
Minnesota has recorded more than 1.5 million infections and nearly 13,000 COVID-19 deaths since the outbreak began. More than 67,800 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with the coronavirus, including more than 12,000 in intensive care.
The majority of recent cases in Minnesota and the United States are caused by the BA.5 subvariant of the omicron strain of COVID-19. Omicron drove infections to record highs in January and health officials fear another surge is looming this fall when most activity is indoors.
To identify proteins associated with the severity of COVID-19, Zhang and his team examined the DNA of nearly 71,000 people around the world. The researchers analyzed hundreds of different proteins, complex molecules that play essential roles in the body.
The study generated almost a million cells and billions of data points which were analyzed with a range of different technologies.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has applied this approach to COVID-19,” says Richard Weinshilboum, study co-author and pharmacologist at the Center for Individualized Medicine.