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HomeHealthStudy identifies gene variations that increase susceptibility to Covid-19

Study identifies gene variations that increase susceptibility to Covid-19

From a new test to detect virus from gargled solution to research on how mild obesity can also prove dangerous, ThePrint brings you the latest findings on Covid-19 front.

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New Delhi: It is six months into the pandemic and scientists across the world have been publishing research findings nearly every day to improve understanding into the novel coronavirus.

Here are some of the latest research findings on Covid-19.

Genetic factors that influence susceptibility to Covid-19 

Scientists have identified a host of genetic factors that may influence susceptibility to Covid-19 and help guide personalised treatments for the infection.

While a majority of confirmed Covid-19 cases result in mild symptoms, the virus can unpredictably cause severe illness and death. Clinical observations suggest that genetic factors may influence disease susceptibility, but these factors remain largely unknown.

In the study, researchers have examined variations in DNA sequences in the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 genes, which produce enzymes that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells.

Looking at 81,000 human genomes from three genomic databases, they have identified over 60 variations in both genes that offer potential explanations for different genetic susceptibility to Covid-19 as well as for risk factors.

These findings demonstrate a possible association between ACE2 and TMPRSS2 variants and Covid-19 susceptibility, and indicate that a systematic investigation of these variants among different populations could pave the way for precision medicine and personalised treatment strategies for Covid-19.

Also read: Low-cost hepatitis C drugs reduce death rate in Covid-19 patients, researchers claim

Mild obesity may increase Covid-19 severity, death risk

Even mildly obese people are at greater risk of suffering from severe Covid-19 infection or even dying from it, according to a new study.

Published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, the findings showed that BMI over 30 was associated with a significantly higher risk of respiratory failure, admission to intensive care and death in Covid-19 patients, regardless of age, gender and other associated diseases.

Current guidelines in the UK and the US identify those having BMI above 40 to be at greater risk of Covid-19. However, researchers have said that these recommendations were based on smaller studies and limited data.

The new study analysed the outcomes of almost 500 patients hospitalised with Covid-19. They found that obesity was associated with a significantly higher risk of severity and death. The researchers also found that any BMI higher than 30 was associated with adverse outcomes.

Heparin may help lower risk of Covid-19 infection

A common drug heparin, already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), can help block the SARS-CoV-2 virus from infecting human cells, a study has found.

Heparin, usually used as a blood thinner, is also available in non-anticoagulant varieties.

A study published in the Antiviral Research states that the drug can bind tightly with the surface spike protein, potentially blocking infection.

The drug may be administered using a nasal spray or nebulizer to lower the odds of infection. Similar strategies have already shown promise in curbing other viruses, including influenza A, Zika, and dengue, researchers have said.

Surface coating that can inactivate SARS-CoV-2 within an hour

Scientists have developed a surface coating which, when painted on common objects such as door knobs, light switches and shopping carts, can inactivate SARS-CoV-2 within an hour.

The team from Virginia Tech hopes to further improve this antiviral coating so that it inactivates the virus in minutes. Usually, the virus can survive on surfaces, especially metals, for several days.

When the coating is painted on glass or stainless steel, the amount of virus is reduced by 99.9 per cent in one hour, researchers have said in a study published in the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

The researchers have said that the coating does not peel off even after being scraped with a razor blade. It also retains its ability to inactivate the virus after multiple rounds of being exposed to it.

New Covid-19 test can detect virus from gargled solution

Scientists have created a new non-invasive method to detect SARS-CoV-2 viruses from gargled solution.

The method, which is currently undergoing improvements and might be available as standard diagnostic tool for Covid-19 in the future, uses mass spectrometry to detect proteins of the virus.

Currently, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the most prominent test method being used to detect whether someone suffers from Covid-19 infection. This tests looks for genetic material of the virus, and is unable to differentiate between live viruses and viral residues.

Mass spectrometry allows molecules to be precisely identified based on their mass and charge.

The procedure to obtain samples for the PCR tests is invasive, requiring paramedics to take swab samples from the back of the throat and nasal cavity.

For the new test, the virus can be detected from gargled samples. The test currently takes about 15 minutes. However it may take a few months to be completely ready.

Also read: Disruption in healthcare services due to Covid may increase HIV, TB deaths, says Lancet study


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