14% of severe Covid-19 cases due to immune weakness and rare genetic mutation: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on September 25, 2020 Published on September 25, 2020

94% of the patients with interferon-attacking antibodies were male

Two research papers published online in the journal Science revealed that a small number of patients with severe coronavirus can get their interferon response crippled by genetic flaws or rogue antibodies that target the interferon itself.

Interferons are naturally occurring proteins that get released by host cells in response to the presence of several viruses. They help in fighting off the virus.

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Qiang Pan- Hammarström, an immunologist at the Karolinska Institute, said as cited in Science: “Together these two papers explain nearly 14 per cent of severe Covid-19 cases. That is quite amazing.”

He said that the researchers highlighted the “critical” role of type I interferons in SARS-CoV-2 infection and the development of potentially lethal coronavirus.

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The study on interferons also noted that 94 per cent of the patients with interferon-attacking antibodies were male. This can also be one of many reasons why men are more at risk of developing severe symptoms of the virus.

Rogue antibodies

Another finding revealed that rogue antibodies are present in 10 per cent of critically ill Covid-19 patients.

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These findings also raised a red flag for recovered patients donating plasma to patients with severe conditions.

The second study also mentioned that examination of 13 genes, chosen because flaws in them impair the body’s production or use of type I interferon, revealed mutations in the genes underlie life-threatening influenza or other viral illnesses.

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The researchers found that 3.5 per cent of critically ill patients have experienced a rare mutation in at least eight of those genes.

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Published on September 25, 2020
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