Genetic risk factors found for long COVID

Wednesday, 16 August, 2023

Genetic risk factors found for long COVID

Computational biology company PrecisionLife has announced the results of its long COVID study providing detailed genetic insights into the condition and its commonalities with other diseases, including myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). It is hoped that this analysis will open the door for new precision diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to address the massive unmet medical need affecting the lives of millions of patients.

Long COVID is a debilitating chronic condition that has affected over 100 million people globally. It is characterised by diverse symptoms, including fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and respiratory problems. Despite considerable global research, studies have so far failed to identify the detailed genetic risk factors, the mechanisms behind the disease or any common pathophysiology with other conditions that present with similar symptoms, such as ME/CFS.

PrecisionLife used its combinatorial analytics approach to compare subpopulations of long COVID patients from Sano Genetics’ long COVID GOLD study. The analysis identified 73 genes that were highly associated with severe and fatigue-dominant forms of the disease. Of these, nine genes have prior associations to acute COVID-19 and 14 were differentially expressed in a transcriptomic analysis of long COVID patients.

To understand similarities with other post-viral, fatigue and other complex disorders, PrecisionLife compared the results of its long COVID analysis against known genetic associations across a range of over 170 neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, autoimmune and metabolic diseases. This cross-disease analysis highlighted long COVID risk genes that were also implicated in a wide range of diseases and found that nine genes associated with long COVID were also found in a recent combinatorial analysis of ME/CFS patients.

The study has been found to demonstrate the power of combinatorial analytics for reproducibly stratifying heterogeneous populations in complex diseases, offering new approaches for diagnosis and the development of precision-targeted treatments for patients. Among the 73 genes shown to be associated with long COVID, 42 have potential for novel drug discovery approaches, with 13 of these already targeted by drugs in clinical development pipelines. PrecisionLife is now evaluating the repurposing potential of these targets for use in treating long COVID and ME/CFS.

“Understanding the complex biology of heterogeneous diseases is key to creating better diagnostic and treatment options for patients,” said PrecisionLife CEO Dr Steve Gardner. “These groundbreaking results build upon the genetic findings from previous combinatorial analyses of severe acute COVID-19 and ME/CFS patient populations. Using combinatorial analytics to gain unprecedented insight into the drivers of disease biology, we can make a real impact for millions of patients who are desperately seeking accurate diagnosis and better treatments.”

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