ABO Gene Associated With Risk of COVID-19

Certain genes that were identified have been implicated in other respiratory illness like asthma.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation at the University of British Columbia has discovered that the ABO gene, along with others, might significantly increase an individual’s chances of developing COVID-19.

The results from the study were presented at the American Thoracic Society 2021 International Conference on Friday.

"By harnessing the power of genomic information, we identified genes that are related to COVID-19," Ana Hernandez, postdoctoral fellow with the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation said. "In particular, we found that the ABO gene is a significant risk factor for COVID-19. Of particular note was the relationship between the blood group ABO and COVID-19 risk. We showed that the relationship is not just an association but causal."

For the study, the team of investigators employed the use of integrative genomics, in combination with proteomics in order to identify genes that may play a role in COVID-19 disease.

The team preformed an analysis of lung gene expression to identify genetic variants that play a role in the expression in the lungs responsible for COVID-19. They used bioinformatics to integrate genomic datasets, lung and blood tissue gene expression and proteome datasets which were obtained from blood donors.

Findings from the study showed that several genes may be responsible for how the immune system responds to COVID-19 and how susceptible someone is to the disease. The genes identified with having a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 were the ABO gene, along with the genetic variants SLC6A20, ERMP1, FCER1G and CA11.

Many of the genes identified in the study have already been implicated in other respiratory illness including asthma.

"Our research has progressed since the time that we first conducted this analysis. We have now identified even more interesting candidates for COVID-19 such as IL10RB, IFNAR2 and OAS1,” Hernandez said. “These genes have been linked to severe COVID-19. Their role in the immune response to viral infections and mounting evidence suggest that these candidates and their role in COVID-19 should be further investigated."