COVID-19 has undeniably had a global impact, though it’s been unclear how the impact has varied across different global populations. A new study from the Dasman Institute, Dasman, Kuwait, published in the journal Heliyon, has identified variations in the genetic profile of populations from across Kuwait, Qatar, and Iran) that shed light on how these variations impact those groups.
It is known that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, uses a specific series of our cells’ inbuilt machinery to invade human cells. Three enzymes, specifically, allow the virus access to our cells – ACE2, TMPRSS2, and FURIN. These enzymes facilitate important functions without our cells, though are implicated in progression of the COVID-19 infection.
Mutation within viruses is common, and is part of success story of viruses, making it possible for infections to continually, though usually subtly, change and maintain themselves as an infectious force. Numerous strains of SARS-CoV-2 have been identified globally, and are keeping researchers busy as part of the ongoing race to generate effective vaccines continues apace. The new study has identified 2 genetic variants, not within the virus, but within ACE2’s own DNA (named K26R and N720D), which make it easier for SARS-CoV-2 to infect human cells. Similar mutations in TMPRSS2 and FURIN have also been identified within the study, that increase the virus’ ability to successfully infect.
Importantly, the team has also identified that there is a significant correlation between the variants within those enzymes and the Middle Eastern populations tested. Although this data is preliminary, it demonstrates the power of precision medicine approach in lighting the path ahead for the development of specific treatment options for specific populations, depending on their genetic makeup. Further study is need, however, and it remains vital to further enhance the correlation between patient data and genetic variations.