New research: A gene that may explain why some are asymptomatic

The researchers compared asymptomatic people to patients from the same community who developed severe Covid but had no underlying illnesses.

A new study has reported evidence of a genetic link explaining why some people who catch Covid-19 don’t become sick. The team led by Newcastle University, UK, has demonstrated that the gene, HLA-DRB1*04:01, is found three times as often in people who are asymptomatic. This suggests that people with this gene have some level of protection from severe Covid.

The study has been published in the journal HLA.

The researchers compared asymptomatic people to patients from the same community who developed severe Covid but had no underlying illnesses. They used next-generation sequencing to focus on a category of genes called HLA.

The gene they identified, HLA-DRB1*04:01, is known to be directly correlated to latitude and longitude. This means more people in the North and West of Europe are likely to have this gene, and this suggests that populations of European descent will be more likely to remain asymptomatic but still transmit the disease to susceptible populations, Newcastle University said in a press release.

The team predicts that approximately one in five people of European descent in the UK carries the gene.

The release quoted co-author Dr Carlos Echevarria as saying: “This is an important finding as it may explain why some people catch Covid but don’t get sick. It could lead us to a genetic test which may indicate who we need to prioritise for future vaccinations.”

Source: Newcastle University

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