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Genetic Risk Factor for Severe COVID-19 Uncovered

New details about the genetics of severe COVID-19 are reported in Nature Genetics this week. Recent genome-wide association studies have uncovered a series of genetic variants in distinct loci that are associated with susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection, including the chr12q24.13 locus encoding OAS1–OAS3 antiviral proteins. To gain better insights into this locus, a National Cancer Institute-led team analyzed data on hospitalized versus non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients of European and African ancestries, finding that the risk of hospitalization was associated with a common OAS1 haplotype comprised of derived human-specific risk alleles of two OAS1 variants. The investigators also provide evidence for the combined functional contribution of these variants on the expression of OAS1, an antiviral protein critical for SARS-CoV-2 clearance. "Thus, genetically regulated OAS1 expression contributes to association with SARS-CoV-2 clearance and risk of hospitalization for COVID-19," they write. The study's authors also note that SARS-CoV-2 expression decreased in cells treated with interferons, suggesting that such treatment may prove beneficial for patients with the OAS1 risk haplotype.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.