NIH researchers find genetic link in patients with severe CO
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Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say they have found how genetics play a critical role in who develops severe cases of COVID-19 and why more men than women die from the illness.

Researchers have rushed to study the unpredictable and wide variations in illness severity that the virus causes in different people.

Key insights:

• More than 10% of people who develop a severe case of the coronavirus have misguided antibodies which attack the immune system.

• Another 3.5% of people who develop severe COVID-19 carry a specific genetic mutation which negatively impacts immunity from the disease.

• Consequently, both groups lack effective immune responses that depend on type I interferon, a set of 17 proteins crucial for protecting cells and the body from viruses.

• Among nearly 660 people with severe COVID-19, a significant number carried rare genetic variants in 13 genes known to be critical in the body’s defense against influenza virus, and more than 3.5% were completely missing a functioning gene.

• Absence of these proteins appear to be common among a subgroup of people who are at risk of life-threatening effects of COVID-19.

• After examining 1,000 patients with life-threatening pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, researchers found that 10% of patients had the misguided antibodies, otherwise known as “autoantibodies,” which defended against the interferon proteins needed to protect the cells. Of those patients with harmful antibodies, 95% were men.

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