A study published in the journal Nature found that there are five key genes linked with the severest form of COVID-19.
The DNA of 2,700 COVID-19 patients was studied in 208 intensive care units across Britain, and researchers found that there five genes called IFNAR2, TYK2, OAS1, DPP9, and CCR2 that are involved in two molecular processes for antiviral immunity and lung inflammation which are crucial in many severe cases.
Kenneth Baillie, the academic consultant in critical care medicine at Edinburgh University who co-led the research, said,
Our results immediately highlight which drugs should be at the top of the list for clinical testing.
The findings shed light on why some people exhibit severe COVID-19 symptoms while others remain unaffected. This should help scientists in speeding up their search for potentially effective drugs for COVID-19 by conducting clinical trials of medicines targeting certain antiviral and anti-inflammatory drugs.
From all these, a drug called ‘Baricitinib’ made by Eli Lilly could be effective.
Dr. Baillie said,
It makes it a very plausible candidate for a new treatment. But of course, we need to do large-scale clinical trials in order to find out if that’s true or not.
Genetic differences were also found in the DPP9 gene that plays a role in the inflammation. Similarly, the OAS gene that aids in preventing the virus from making copies of itself, and IFNAR2 are linked to an anti-viral molecule called interferon which helps in producing immunity against COVID-19.
It is believed that the production of too little interferon can allow the virus to replicate itself, thus leading to the severity of the disease.
Professor Jean-Laurent Casanova, who carried out the study from the Rockefeller University in New York, said,
Interferon accounted for nearly 15 percent of the critical COVID-19 cases internationally enrolled in our cohort. I hope that if given in the first two, three, four days of infection, the interferon would work, because it essentially would provide the molecule that the patient does not produce by himself or by herself.