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PLOS Papers on Retina GWAS, Hantaan Virus, COVID-19 Phenome-Wide Association Study

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, University College London, and elsewhere share findings from a genome-wide association study focused on inner retinal morphology, assessed in more than 31,400 UK Biobank participants using an optical coherence tomography (OCT) approach. With the help of array-based genotyping on a subset of individuals, the team tracked down three visual acuity-associated loci and almost four dozen loci linked to inner retinal thickness, particularly thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer or ganglion cell inner plexiform layer. Although one of 46 retinal thickness-associated sites overlapped with a locus implicated in glaucoma, the authors note that "glaucoma and genetically determined inner retinal thickness are not on the same genetic pathway and it is, rather, the change of thickness over time that is indicative of the disease."

A Korea University College of Medicine- and Hallym University-led team describe a Hantaan orthohantavirus (HTNV) genotype found in a striped field mouse (Apodemus agrarius chejuensis) on Korea's Jeju Island for a paper in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Based on genomic sequencing and phylogenetic analyses on HTNV isolates collected from Jeju striped field mice between 2018 and 2020, along with related antibody and RNA assays, the researchers conclude that the island is home to a previously unappreciated HTNV genotype that is related to viruses identified in individuals from southern Korea who were treated for orthohantavirus-related hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). "Our results suggest that A. chejuensis-borne HTNV may be a potential etiological agent of HFRS in [the southern Republic of Korea]," they write. "Ancestral HTNV may infect A. chejuensis prior to geological isolation between the Korean peninsula and Jeju Island, supporting the co-evolution of orthohantaviruses and rodents."

For a paper in PLOS One, members of the Veterans Health Administration Million Veteran Program (MVP)'s COVID-19 Science Initiative present findings from a phenome-wide association study focused on disease progression in MVP participants infected with SARS-CoV-2. After gleaning a range of phenotypes from more than 1,800 diagnostic codes in MVP participant electronic health records, the team found traits and conditions with apparent ties to COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, admission to intensive care, or mortality in hundreds of thousands of participants with or without a history of SARS-CoV-2 infection. "Downstream epidemiology and genetics studies should be aware that when selecting controls for observational analyses, patients who had a negative test for SARS-CoV-2 or visited the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic likely have different clinical characteristics from the general population and could introduce sampling bias," the authors note.