Gene mutation makes some people more susceptible to the coronavirus

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Credit: Casey Chin

[R]esearch published in the Journal of the American Medical Association analysed variation of the genetic makeup of four young male patients with severe COVID-19 from two families, who did not have any preexisting medical conditions that made them predisposed to the deadly disease. According to the scientists from Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, the patients had variants of the gene TLR7, along with defects in the production of immune system molecules type I and II interferons.

The researchers explained that TLR-genes help produce a family of protein receptors on the surface of human cells that play an important role in the recognition of pathogens. They said these receptors recognise infectious agents like bacteria and viruses in the body and activate the immune system.

While TLR7 function had so far never been associated with an inborn error of immunity, the new findings, according to the scientists, indicate that its role is essential for protection from the novel coronavirus. “So it seems that the virus can replicate undisturbed because the immune system does not get a message that the virus has invaded,” explained geneticist Alexander Hoischen.

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The discovery, according to the scientists, not only provides more insight into the fundamental workings of the immune system, but it may also have important consequences for the treatment of severely ill COVID-19 patients.

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