Researchers have found five key genes that are associated with severe Covid-19 infection. They also recommended existing drugs that can be repurposed to treat people with severe infections.

For the researchers, the authors of the study examined the DNA of 2,700 patients admitted to 208 intensive care units in Britain. They found five genes involving in two molecular processes – antiviral immunity and lung inflammation – were central to many severe cases.

Lead author Kenneth Baillie, an academic consultant in critical care medicine at Edinburgh University said, “Our results immediately highlight which drugs should be at the top of the list for clinical testing.”

The genes – called IFNAR2, TYK2, OAS1, DPP9, and CCR2 – partially explain why some people become desperately sick with Covid-19, while others are not affected, Baillie said.

The researchers noted in their study that this should help scientists accelerate the search for potential drugs effective against Covid-19 by conducting clinical trials of medicines that target specific antiviral and anti-inflammatory pathways.

Among those with the most potential should be a class of anti-inflammatory drugs called JAK inhibitors, which includes the arthritis drug baricitinib, the researchers added.

Baillie’s team also found that a boost in the activity of the INFAR2 gene could create protection against Covid-19 because it is likely to mimic the effect of treatment with interferon.

So far, a steroid called dexamethasone and a newly developed antiviral called remdesivir, made by Gilead, are the only drugs authorised around the world to treat Covid-19 patients. However, some studies have claimed that these drugs are not as effective against Covid-19. The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature.