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Scientists have discovered 16 new genetic markers that predispose you to severe illness from COVID

March 7, 2022, 9:24 PM UTC

Have you ever wondered why some people with COVID-19 experience no symptoms at all, while others fall severely ill? 

The question has boggled scientists’ minds since the pandemic began, and scientists think they might finally have an answer. 

A new study from the University of Edinburgh and Genomics England, a U.K. government-funded research institution, pinpointed 16 new genes that predispose people to suffering from severe illness after contracting COVID-19. 

Those genetic differences make it more difficult for the immune system to limit the virus’ ability to replicate in the body, and leads to an increased susceptibility to blood clotting or inflamed lungs, according to the study published on Monday in the scientific journal Nature

“This gives us a deep understanding of the process of disease and is a big step forward in finding more effective treatments,” said Dr. Kenneth Baillie, who led the study, in an interview with the Financial Times

The study compared the genome samples of roughly 7,500 COVID-positive patients admitted to U.K. intensive care units with the genome samples of over 1,500 COVID patients that experienced mild symptoms, and over 48,000 people who never tested positive for the virus. 

The findings identified the 16 new genomic predispositions for developing a severe reaction to COVID, and helped to confirm seven other genomes previously identified that are linked to developing severe COVID reactions.

Baillie and the study’s other authors said that the findings could help doctors determine additional potential treatments for COVID-19, or identify existing drugs that could also be used to treat the virus.

In addition, the study’s findings could ultimately help doctors identify patients that are likely to become severely ill from the virus.

“It is potentially possible in [the] future that we will be able to make predictions about patients based on their genome at the point of presenting (for) critical care,” Baillie said.

To determine whether you have any of the 23 genomic variations linked to the predispositions, a genomic sample of your DNA would need to be taken and studied in a lab.

More than 950,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the U.S., although the total number of “excess deaths” during the pandemic is higher.  An estimated six million people worldwide have died of COVID since March, 2020, according to the World Health Organization.

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