Researchers identify gene tied to increased risk of respiratory failure from COVID-19

People with a specific version of a gene known as LTZFL1 may be at increased risk of respiratory failure from COVID-19, according to research published Nov. 4 in Nature

Researchers from University of Oxford in the U.K. found a higher-risk version of the gene may prevent the cells lining airways and the lungs from responding to the SARS-CoV-2 virus properly, which may double the risk of respiratory failure. 

After accounting for other factors, "If you have the higher-risk genotype and you get very unwell with COVID-19, there's a 50 percent chance that that wouldn't have happened to you had you had the lower-risk genotype," Dr. James Davies, co-lead study author and associate professor of genomics at Oxford, told Bloomberg..

About 60 percent of people with South Asian ancestry carry the higher-risk gene, compared to 15 percent of people with European ancestry, "partially explaining the ongoing higher death rate in this population in the U.K.," the study said. 

The findings may also lead to future research into treatments tailored to patients with this version of the LZTFL1 gene, Bloomberg reported. 

The study "shows that the way in which the lung responds to the infection is critical," Dr. Davies said. "This is important because most treatments have focused on changing the way in which the immune system reacts to the virus." 

Scientists used artificial intelligence and molecular technology to identify the gene.

 

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