The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of this novel Coronavirus as a Global pandemic on 12th March 2020.
Caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2 (formerly known as 2019-nCoV), this is the deadliest pandemic the world has seen since the Spanish influenza of 1918.
As of July 2020, COVID-19 is still continuing its fateful march around the globe.
Why do the symptoms vary?
In most cases, COVID-19 starts out as flu-like symptoms, and a little over 70% of the people recover on their own.
But occasionally, (if you have to put a number on it, around 1 in 6) breathing difficulty and other respiratory issues occur.
In extreme cases, COVID-19 positive individuals can be asymptomatic.
Initial research that explored the broader spectrum of things suggests that age, gender, geographic location, and underlying health conditions may all influence the severity and susceptibility to COVID-19.
To gain more clarity, GWAS studies, and other small sample size research studies were conducted on the genetic contribution to the varying symptoms.
Here’s what we know so far:
Research studies have shown that genetic variants associated with host cell entry, production of cytokines, and immune response have a link to the severity of the infection.
The study confirmed the importance of ACE gene expression and the HLA region in the host response to viral infection.
ACE2, an enzyme created by the ACE2 protein, usually plays a role in the maintenance of blood pressure.
However, it has allied with the SARS-CoV 2 by functioning as a door to the cells.
In comparison to the SARS-CoV virus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds with a higher affinity to the ACE2 cell receptor, making it highly infectious.
An analysis of over 300,000 individuals variant data from across the world found variants in this gene that alters the receptor making it less friendly for the virus to bind to the host cell.
Individuals carrying such variants may thus be less susceptible to COVID-19.
A diverse set of human genes in the major histocompatibility complex encodes the human leukocyte antigens (HLAs).
Most people carry between three and six different HLA alleles that show geographic-specific distributions.
These proteins are important for how the immune system recognizes and mounts immune defenses against infection.
It is thus safe to say that HLA variations could affect your immune response to the virus.
A study found that HLA-B*46:01 variant had the fewest predicted binding sites, and therefore, reduced immune responses to SARS-CoV-2.
The gender bias
According to a study in China, the number of men who died from COVID-19 is 2.4 times that of women.
According to NYC Health, men account for almost 60% of COVID-19 deaths.
So, what puts men at a higher risk for COVID-19 infection when compared to women?
A study hypothesizes the involvement of TLR gene in this.
TLRs or Toll-Like Receptors are a class of proteins that play an important role in immune functioning.
Humans have ten classes of TLRs (TLR1 to TLR10).
TLR7 is a pattern recognition receptor present in several immune cells and can detect single-stranded RNA viruses, including coronaviruses.
The X chromosome encodes the TLR7 and TLR8 tandem.
Women carry 2 X chromosomes, whereas men carry an X and a Y chromosome.
Though one of the X chromosomes is inactivated in women, the TLR7 and TLR8 tandem seems to have escaped this silencing resulting in higher expression levels of TLR7 in females in comparison to males.
ABO blood grouping
A research study involving 1610 COVID-19 positive patients with respiratory failure established that blood type may play a key role in determining who contracts COVID-19 and how severe the illness becomes.
According to the study, blood group O is associated with a lower risk of acquiring COVID-19, whereas blood group A was associated with a higher risk.
The researchers are still a bit hazy on the exact science behind it, but some authors suggest that variations in biological mechanisms in ABO blood groups may play a role, specifically in their immune response.
Response to drugs
Pharmacogenomics, the study of how genes affect your body’s response to drugs, is a rapidly growing field that is in the process of unlocking the key to preventing adverse drug effects.
The bolus of drug and genomics research occurring during the pandemic has lead to assessing the role of genetics in personalizing COVID-19 treatment.
Hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, had an approval initially by the FDA for clinical trials to treat COVID-19.
However, the clinical trials recorded a significant number of arrhythmias, especially in patients with existing cardiovascular disease.
Evaluating the genetic variants that contribute to the effectiveness of the drug metabolism can help alter the dosage accordingly to avoid such adverse side effects.
Xcode Life COVID-19 Genetic Report
Based on the key findings from the latest genetic research on COVID-19, we have curated a comprehensive report to enable you to understand your body better and align your care, diet, and therapy to your genetic type for the best support.
The report we have built consists of 4 sections:
1. Genetic risk for severe COVID-19
2. Genetic association with nutritional traits that may affect COVID-19 severity
3. Genetic influence on drug therapy
4. Genetics of the gut microbiome
How to use the report?
Please note that the COVID-19 genetic report is based on preliminary studies and is meant only for educational purposes.
This report should be interpreted only by a medical practitioner.
Any lifestyle modifications based on this report should be done only after consulting with a qualified medical practitioner.
Your nutritional needs
The immune system is always active, carrying out surveillance, but there is an enhancement in its activity if an individual encounters an infection.
Several vitamins (A, C, D, and E) and trace elements (zinc, selenium) have been demonstrated to have key roles in supporting the human immune system and reducing the risk of infections.
It would seem prudent for individuals to consume sufficient amounts of essential nutrients to support their immune system.
While one can ensure nutritional sufficiency through diet, other factors may hinder your body from absorbing these nutrients well, making you prone to deficiencies.
For example, some genetic variants interfere with the proper metabolization and utilization of certain nutrients, ultimately leading to its deficiency.
Carriers of such variants may require additional supplementation.
The nutrition section of the report profiles the genetic variants associated with this process.
It also includes specific dietary recommendations to ensure that you are meeting your optimal nutritional needs.
Your drug response
Your genetic makeup has a big role in drug metabolization, and consequently the effect of the drugs on your body.
The same genetic variants also influence how well your body allows the drug to treat viral infections.
This section of the report focuses on analyzing these genetic variants.
The outcomes throw some light on which combination of drugs your body type may respond better to, ensuring little to no side effects.
Your gut microbes
One of the serious clinical manifestations of COVID-19 is pneumonia and progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), especially in elderly, immune-compromised patients.
Numerous experimental and clinical observations have suggested that the gut microbiota plays a key role in the pathogenesis of sepsis and ARDS.
Loss of gut bacteria diversity can lead to dysbiosis, which may then be associated with many diseases.
Thus, the speculation of gut-lung connection influencing the clinical manifestation of COVID19 seems highly plausible.
In fact, according to research, nearly 60% of patients with COVID-19 show symptoms of gastrointestinal disturbance like diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.
Some genetic variants aid a better growth of beneficial gut microbiome, thereby curbing all unwanted GI disturbances.
You can order your COVID-19 Genetic Report here.