Why Covid kills some people and not others - scientists crack mystery 2 months ago

Why Covid kills some people and not others - scientists crack mystery

Research from Oxford has suggested the reason might be genetic

A certain gene has been found to double the risk of a person dying from Covid, according to new research from the University of Oxford.

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The global death toll from the virus stands at roughly 5 million, and according to the research, the reason why some people die from the virus and others don't is largely genetic.

Researchers from the University of Oxford pinpointed the gene LZTFL1, saying that it doubles the risk of death from Covid.

The study found that more than one in six Brits and Europeans could have this gene.

But the threat is even greater for those from South Asian heritage, with a staggering 61.2 per cent of people from the region thought to have the gene.

Scientists say this may explain why South Asian communities in the UK have been so badly affected, but they stressed that this was not the sole reason.

For example, just two percent of people from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds carried the gene, despite black and ethnic minority communities experiencing much higher death rates.

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Factors such as the jobs that people from these communities work in and the likelihood of people in these communities living in multi-generational households are also crucial, the research found.

Study co-lead James Davies said: "If you have the high-risk genotype and you get very unwell with Covid, there’s a 50 per cent chance that that wouldn’t have happened to you had you had the lower risk genotype.

"If it affected the immune system you would be really worried that people wouldn’t respond to the vaccines."

Researchers said the risky gene probably prevents the cells that line the airways and the lungs from responding properly to Covid, but they added that the gene does not alter immune cell function so vaccines will still work to cancel out the risk.

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Prof Davies, who worked as an NHS consultant in intensive care medicine during the pandemic, said: "The effect is in the lungs and that means people with the higher risk version of the gene should respond to vaccination and that should cancel it out.

"If it affected the immune system you would be really worried that people wouldn’t respond to the vaccines."

Prof Frances Flinter, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Genetics, Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said that the research was important in understanding why some ethnic groups have been harder hit by the virus and that socio-economic differences were not a "complete explanation."

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She added that it demonstrated the importance of offering the vaccine to these communities that "are at greater risk of serious Covid-19 infection as a consequence of carrying this genetic predisposition."