- ‘Fattier’ version of gene provides better COVID protection, scientists find
- About 60% of people of British ancestry are believed to have this gene.
- Patients with the UK Ovid gene were less likely to need treatment in the ICU
- But scientists have warned that similar viruses have already defeated this defense.
A single gene may determine whether catching COVID will make you go to the ICU, a new study has suggested.
Experts from the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research have discovered why some people are naturally more resistant to the virus than others.
They found that people with a prenylated version of the OAS1 gene, which has been linked to Neanderthal ancestry, had better protection against Covid.
Prenylated is a term that means an extra molecule of fat is attached to the protein linked to the gene.
Scientists found that the prenylated version of OAS1 is better at detecting the COVID virus, alarming the body’s immune system that it is under attack.
Scientists found that COVID patients without the ‘good’ version of the OAS1 gene were 1.6 times more likely to end up in the ICU or die than those who were lucky enough to have it.
Scientists analyzed genetic data from 499 hospitalized UK COVID patients, and found that those without the prenylated variant of the OAS1 gene were more likely to be sent to the ICU for treatment or to die.
They found that those without the fatty version of the OAS1 gene were 1.6 times more likely to be sent to the ICU or die.
Academics tell MailOnline that 60 percent of people of English or Scottish descent carry a variant of the gene.
This genetic protection from COVID is likely to help many people avoid a severe case of the disease before vaccines were available.
But while the discovery is good news for people who may have a prenylated version of the OAS1 gene, the announcement came with a caveat.
Professor Sam Wilson, one of the study’s authors, sheds light on how the coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003, which is related to COVID, was adapted to escape a premutated version of the OAS1 gene.
He added: ‘If the Sars-CoV-2 variants learn the same trick, they could be significantly more pathogenic and transmissible in unrelated populations.
‘This reinforces the need to continuously monitor the emergence of new Sars-CoV-2 variants.’
The scientists also said that the current vulnerability of covid to a prenylated version of the OAS1 gene in humans may give us clues to the origin of the virus.
One of the hypothesized theories behind the origin of Covid is that it began as a virus among horseshoe bats.
While a prenylated version of the OAS1 gene is common in the animal kingdom, horseshoe bats are an exception, having lost it during their evolution about 55 million years ago.
The fact that covid is sensitive to a prenylated version of the OAS1 gene suggests that it originated in a species lacking this defense.
Professor Wilson said: ‘Cross-species transmission to humans exposed the virus to Sars-CoV-2 to a new repertoire of antiviral defense, some of which may not have known how to escape.’
The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation.
Can microorganisms living in your nose protect you from covid?
New research suggests that the ecosystem of tiny organisms that live in your nose and throat may determine how sick COVID can make you.
Scientists from Augusta University Medical College, Georgia in the US recently investigated the impact of a community of microbes that live in the human nose and throat, called the microbiota.
The researchers compared the microbiota of 27 people who did not have COVID, 30 who had the virus but had no symptoms, and 27 people who were positive with symptoms.
They found that the microbiota of half of the patients with COVID symptoms had been ‘wiped out’.
This compared to only two individuals in the non-Covid group and four individuals in the asymptomatic group with the same amount of microorganisms in their nose and throat.
Dr. Sadanand Fuljele, one of the authors of the letter, admitted to the journal Diagnosis that they did not know whether the virus had wiped out the microbiota or if the microbiota deficiency made people vulnerable to the virus.
However, the authors said that the data they collected suggests a ‘strong association’ between the nasal microbiota and COVID infection and disease severity.
The scientists said more research needed to be done on the topic and they were planning to apply for funding to explore the topic.