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Genes Emerge as Potential Modifiers

In addition to age, pre-existing conditions like diabetes, and the effects of systemic racism, Scientific American reports genetic factors are emerging as potential modifiers of COVID-19 risk and severity.

Recent studies have tied spots on chromosome 3 and chromosome 9 to COVID-19 severity. In the New England Journal of Medicine last month, researchers from COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative, noted that the chromosome 3 region includes genes that encode chemokine receptors and the chromosome 9 region encompasses the ABO blood group locus.

But researchers tell Scientific American that these genetic variants likely have a limited effect on COVID-19 risk and severity. Rather than stratify people into risk groups, they say these loci may instead help scientists tease out the biological pathways involved in vulnerability to disease, which could then be harnessed to uncover drugs that target the processes involved.

"Examining that biology in serious COVID-19 cases might — eventually — create a route to therapies that work across the entire afflicted population, not just in people with specific genetic changes," it writes.