French scientists make progress in research on genetic predisposition to the severe form of Covid-19


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The Franco-American institute Imagine, with laboratories in Paris and New York, has been researching since May if there would be a genetic predisposition in the serious forms of Covid-19. In a new article, recently published in Science magazine, the institute’s directors, pediatrician Jean-Laurent Casanova and geneticist Laurent Abel, show that 15% of severe forms of lung infection have genetic and immunological causes.

In an interview with the French newspaper The Parisian, Laurent Abel explains that 3% to 4% of patients affected by the severe form of Covid-19 are carriers of genetic mutations that reduce the production of type 1 interferons (IFNs), implicated in the first line in antiviral defense. The research is now oriented towards the development of diagnostic tests that could identify these patients at risk.

Some studies are well advanced and a promising treatment alternative would be to develop drugs based on type 1 interferons, which may compensate for the deficit in the patient’s body, details the geneticist. Molecules of this type have been on the market for 30 years and have the advantage of not causing significant side effects. They could be used for a short period of time in patients with the severe form of Covid-19.

The Imagine Institute researchers made another discovery: 10% to 11% of patients affected by the severe form of lung infection have the particularity of producing autoantibodies that neutralize type 1 interferons and prevent them from fighting the disease. The common point between them is that the majority are men.

Of the 101 cases studied with these clinical characteristics, 95 were men. Of the six women, only one had pigmentary incontinence, a rare dominant genetic disorder linked to the X chromosome.

The fragility of some men in the face of the new coronavirus is nothing new. What the researchers are trying to do now is to identify all the genetic mutations that may explain this weakness, including this X chromosome mutation, to produce advances in combating the severe form of Covid-19.


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