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Genetic mechanisms of critical illness in Covid-19


Host-mediated lung inflammation is present,1 and drives mortality,2 in critical illness caused by Covid-19. Host genetic variants associated with critical illness may identify mechanistic targets for therapeutic development.3 Here we report the results of the GenOMICC (Genetics Of Mortality In Critical Care) genome-wide association study(GWAS) in 2244 critically ill Covid-19 patients from 208 UK intensive care units (ICUs). We identify and replicate novel genome-wide significant associations, on chr12q24.13 (rs10735079, p=1.65 \(\times \) 10-8) in a gene cluster encoding antiviral restriction enzyme activators (OAS1, OAS2, OAS3), on chr19p13.2 (rs2109069, p=2.3 \(\times \) 10-12) near the gene encoding tyrosine kinase 2 (TYK2), on chr19p13.3 (rs2109069, p=3.98 \(\times \) 10-12) within the gene encoding dipeptidyl peptidase 9 (DPP9), and on chr21q22.1 (rs2236757, p=4.99 \(\times \) 10-8) in the interferon receptor gene IFNAR2. We identify potential targets for repurposing of licensed medications: using Mendelian randomisation we found evidence in support of a causal link from low expression of IFNAR2, and high expression of TYK2, to life-threatening disease; transcriptome-wide association in lung tissue revealed that high expression of the monocyte/macrophage chemotactic receptor CCR2 is associated with severe Covid-19. Our results identify robust genetic signals relating to key host antiviral defence mechanisms, and mediators of inflammatory organ damage in Covid-19. Both mechanisms may be amenable to targeted treatment with existing drugs. Large-scale randomised clinical trials will be essential before any change to clinical practice.

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Correspondence to J. Kenneth Baillie.

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Supplementary Data Tables (10) and Supplementary Figures (20) describing details of GWAS analyses, meta-analysis, demographics, recruitment and severity, Mendelian randomisation, transcriptome-wide association study, gene-level burden of significance, and heritability.

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Pairo-Castineira, E., Clohisey, S., Klaric, L. et al. Genetic mechanisms of critical illness in Covid-19. Nature (2020).

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