Genetic risk variant for COVID-19 provides protection against HIV: Study

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Solna (Sweden): SARS-CoV-2 infection affects some people severely, while others have only mild symptoms or no symptoms. A recent study has shown that in addition to risk factors such as advanced age and chronic diseases such as diabetes, our genetic inheritance also contributes to our individual COVID-19 severity risk.

The study was published in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ (PNAS). In the autumn of 2020, Hugo Zeberg and MPI-EVA at Karolinska Institutet and Svante Pabo at MPI-EVA showed that we inherited the key genetic risk factors for severe COVID-19 from Neanderthals.

In the spring of 2021, the same researcher pair studied this variant in ancient human DNA and observed that its frequency had increased significantly since the last ice age. In fact, it has become unexpectedly common for genetic diversity to be inherited from Neanderthals.

Therefore, it may have had a favorable effect on its carriers in the past. Hugo Zeberg, the study’s sole author, said: “This major genetic risk factor for COVID-19 is so common that I began to wonder whether it might actually be good for providing protection against another infectious disease. ”

The genetic risk factor is located in a region on chromosome 3 that contains several genes. Surrounding this are the many genes that encode receptors in the immune system. One of these receptors – CCR5 – is used by the HIV virus to infect white blood cells.

Zeberg found that people who carried risk factors for COVID-19 had fewer CCR5 receptors. This prompted them to test whether they also had a low risk of contracting HIV. By analyzing patient data from three major biobanks (FinGen, UK Biobank and Michigan Genomic Initiative), they found that carriers of the at-risk variant of COVID-19 had a 27 percent lower risk of getting HIV.

Zeberg said, “This shows how a genetic variant can be both good and bad news: bad news. provides.”

However, since HIV only originated during the 20th century, protection against this infectious disease cannot explain why the genetic risk variant for COVID-19 became so common in humans 10,000 years ago.

“We now know that this risk variant for COVID-19 confers protection against HIV. But it was probably protection from yet another disease that increased its frequency after the last ice age,” concluded Zeberg. (ANI)

First Published:February 23, 2022, 4:30 am

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