The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) spreads from human to human on tiny droplets of bodily fluids. Since November last year, more than 259,000 people have contracted coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and more than 11,000 people have died.
Researchers at the Medical University of Wrocław, Poland, have now proposed a slice of the global population could be more likely to catch COVID-19, thanks to their genes.
The researchers told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) certain genetic characteristics or variations can affect how people react to COVID-19 and medication.
Dr Paweł Gajdanowicz said: “Genetic studies and association analysis have revealed the relationship between genetic differences and susceptibility to infection with viruses such as HIV, HBV, HCV, dengue virus, tuberculosis-causing bacteria, leprosy, meningitis cerebrospinal and malaria-causing parasites.”
Researchers have already found mutations in a gene encoding the CCR5 receptor protein can make people less likely to contract HIV.
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According to Dr Mirosław Kwaśniewski from the Medical University of Białystok, past studies have also found variations in the ACE2 gene are known to make people more susceptible to the coronavirus SARS-CoV.
The ACE2 gene could also play a big role in SARS-CoV-2 infections.
The gene encodes the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) that is found in the lungs, the small intestine and other cells.
Dr Kwaśniewski said: “Activated virus proteins – as in the SARS-CoV pandemic in 2002 – have been shown to bind to the human receptor encoded by the ACE2 gene, causing infection.”
Studies have also linked variations in the ACE2 gene to cardiological problems.
Dr Kwaśniewski said: “We see that COVID-19 can be influenced not only by the age of the patients, but also by co-morbidities such as diabetes, or hypertension, that is those whose underlying may also depend on genetic conditions and lifestyle.
We see that COVID-19 can be influenced not only by the age of the patients
Dr Mirosław Kwaśniewski, Medical University of Białystok
“Only now, in a crisis, are we all beginning to recognise the importance of such dependencies more.”
The coronavirus attacks the respiratory system with flu-like symptoms.
When the virus strikes, most people will experience mild symptoms such as dry cough, fever and fatigue.
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But the disease can deteriorate into severe acute respiratory syndrome, which can be fatal.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said: “Most people – about 80 percent – recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
“Around one out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.
“Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.”
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