Is there a genetic predisposition to Long Covid? Results from this research involving over 6000 people in 16 countries suggests there could be. With comments from Professor Chris Ponting – who is leading the DecodeME study which is looking for the same type of genetic evidence in ME/CFS.
Nature article, by Heidi Ledford
The first genome-wide search for long-COVID risk factors could pave the way for larger studies.
The first genome-wide hunt to find genetic risk factors for Long Covid has yielded a hit: a DNA sequence near a gene called FOXP4, which is active in the lungs and in some immune cells.
The study, which was released as a preprint on 1 July, used data collected from 6,450 people with long COVID across 16 countries. Researchers hope that this analysis will be just the beginning: a vast number of data are required to unpick a disorder as complex as long COVID, which has been associated with more than 200 symptoms, including severe fatigue, nerve pain and difficulties with concentration and memory.
“It’s very important that this type of study is being done,” says Chris Ponting, who studies medical bioinformatics at the University of Edinburgh, UK. “It will gain momentum and greater power as the case number increases.”
Such studies are early steps towards learning more about the causes of Long Covid, says Stéphanie Longet, an immunologist at Jean Monnet University in Saint-Étienne, France, who has Long Covid.
“There are several key topics which are essential for patients, including treatments and prevention,” she says. “When causes, maybe multifactorial, [are] clearly understood, it will help to treat patients who will be more susceptible to develop Long Covid and potentially prevent Long Covid.”
“It won’t just be a single answer, there will be a whole variety of people’s vulnerabilities contributing to why they haven’t recovered from COVID,” says Ponting.
He and his colleagues proposed a study that would have included DNA from 15,000 people with Long Covid. But grant reviewers rejected the proposal, he says, because they thought the condition too complex to be dissected in the way Ponting’s team suggested.
“I disagree,” he says. “It is very complicated, but also very important to pick apart. The health and socio-economic costs of Long Covid are enormous.”
- Nature: Gene linked to Long Covid found in thousands of patients | 11 July 2023
- Research: Genome-wide Association Study of Long COVID | Preprint | 01 July 2023