“Genes May Leave Some People More Vulnerable to Severe Covid-19”
Conspiracy Revelation: 6.6.2020: Most people have this blood type…
“Geneticists have turned up intriguing links between DNA and the disease. Patients with Type A blood, for example, seem to be at greater risk.”
“By Carl Zimmer
June 3, 2020
Why do some people infected with the coronavirus suffer only mild symptoms, while others become deathly ill?
Geneticists have been scouring our DNA for clues. Now, a study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Variations at two spots in the human genome are associated with an increased risk of respiratory failure in patients with Covid-19, the researchers found. One of these spots includes the gene that determines blood types.
Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
The study was equally striking for the genes that failed to turn up. The coronavirus attaches to a protein called ACE2 on the surface of human cells in order to enter them, for example. But genetic variants in ACE2 did not appear to make a difference in the risk of severe Covid-19.
The findings suggest that relatively unexplored factors may be playing a large role who develops life-threatening Covid-19. “There are new kids on the block now,” said Andre Franke, a molecular geneticist at the University of Kiel in Germany and a co-author of the new study, which is currently going through peer review.
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Scientists have already determined that factors like age and underlying disease put people at extra risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19. But geneticists are hoping that a DNA test might help identify patients who will need aggressive treatment.
Figuring out the reason that certain genes may raise the odds of severe disease could also lead to new targets for drug designers.
As the pandemic gained momentum in February, Dr. Franke and his colleagues set up a collaboration with doctors in Spain and Italy who were struggling with a rising wave of Covid-19.
The doctors took blood samples from 1,610 patients who needed an oxygen supply or had to go on a ventilator. Dr. Franke and his colleagues extracted DNA from the samples and scanned it using a rapid technique called genotyping.
The researchers did not sequence all three billion genetic letters in the genome of each patient. Instead, they looked at nine million letters. Then the researchers carried out the same genetic survey on 2,205 blood donors with no evidence of Covid-19.
The scientists were looking for spots in the genome, called loci, where an unusually high number of the severely ill patients shared the same variants, compared with those who were not ill.
Two loci turned up. In one of these sites is the gene that determines our blood type. That gene directs production of a protein that places molecules on the surface of blood cells.
It’s not the first time Type A blood has turned up as a possible risk. Chinese scientists who examined patient blood types also found that those with Type A were more likely to develop a serious case of Covid-19.
No one knows why. While Dr. Franke was comforted by the support from the Chinese study, he could only speculate how blood types might affect the disease. “That is haunting me, quite honestly,” he said.
He also noted that the locus where the blood-type gene is situated also contains a stretch of DNA that acts as an on-off switch for a gene producing a protein that triggers strong immune responses.
The coronavirus triggers an overreaction of the immune system in some people, leading to massive inflammation and lung damage — the so-called cytokine storm. It is theoretically possible that genetic variations influence that response.
A second locus, on Chromosome 3, shows an even stronger link to Covid-19, Dr. Franke and his colleagues found. But that spot is home to six genes, and it is not yet possible to say which of them influences the course of Covid-19.
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Frequently Asked Questions and Advice
Updated June 5, 2020
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?
Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.
How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?
Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.
My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?
States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
How do I take my temperature?
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
One of those gene candidates encodes a protein known to interact with ACE2, the cellular receptor needed by the coronavirus to enter host cells. But another gene nearby encodes a potent immune-signaling molecule. It is possible that this immune gene also triggers an overreaction that leads to respiratory failure.
Dr. Franke and his colleagues are part of an international effort called the Covid-19 Host Genetics Initiative.
A thousand researchers in 46 countries are collecting DNA samples from people with the disease. They are now beginning to post data on the initiative’s website.
Andrea Ganna, a genetic epidemiologist at the University of Helsinki, said that initiative’s collected data were beginning to point to a single spot on Chromosome 3 as a potentially important player.
It’s not common for genetic variants to emerge out of studies of so few people, said Jonathan Sebat, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the new study.
“We were all hoping optimistically this was one of those situations,” Dr. Sebat said.
Previous attempts to find any genetic loci that varied significantly between sick people and healthy ones have failed. Dr. Sebat speculated that the new study succeeded because the researchers focused only on people who had respiratory failure and were clearly vulnerable to serious forms of Covid-19.
“They had the ideal cohort,” he said.
New studies, such as the one Dr. Sebat is running in California, will allow scientists to see if the two loci really do matter as much as they seem to now.
The geneticists may be able to zero in on exactly which gene in each locus affects the disease, he said. And researchers will most likely find many other genes with subtler influences on the course of Covid-19.
Genetics and the Coronavirus”