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Variants Here and There

Researchers in the UK are examining whether small genetic differences account for why some people with COVID-19 grapple with severe disease, while others experience a milder disease course, the Guardian reports.

It notes that researchers are in particular studying differences in interferon-related genes. Some researchers suspect, the Guardian adds, that people with rare variants within such genes may be unable to mount an effective immune response to SARS-CoV-2. At the same time, other researchers are focusing on the TYK2 gene, which has been implicated in some autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. The rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib, it notes, is being examined as a COVID-19 treatment and early findings from Eli Lilly suggests the drug could help patients recover more quickly.

Other researchers, meanwhile, are examining genetic variants that might predispose individuals to conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes that are associated with developing more severe COVID-19, and then the effect of modifying those traits. "This indicates that losing weight and giving up smoking will have a direct impact in improving your chances of surviving COVID-19," Imperial College London's Dipender Gill tells the Guardian. "That is the power of genetic studies like these."