Unknown factors are clearly leaving some people vulnerable to the pandemic’s worst effects even though some of them are young, are not overweight and do not suffer from other obvious health problems. And these differences in DNA are now being tracked by researchers who believe they offer a route to developing new drugs that could halt many of the worst consequences of suffering from Covid-19.Key developments include research which indicates that interferon – a molecular messenger that stimulates immune defences against invading viruses – may play a vital role in defending the body. Scientists have found that rare mutations in some people may leave them unable to make adequate supplies of the interferon they need to trigger effective immune responses to Covid. Trials using interferon as Covid treatments are now under way at several centres.Nevertheless, he told Science that he hoped his results would speed the development of treatments “because the epidemic is progressing at such an alarming rate, even a few months of time saved will save lots of lives”.
In addition, other researchers point out that there are other ways of using genetics to combat Covid. Dr Dipender Gill of Imperial College London has, with colleagues, used genetic data to predict how different interventions could affect disease reactions.Gill said: “We looked at five traits that have been linked to increased risk of getting severe Covid-19: obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol, smoking and diabetes. To do that, Gill – working with a team of British, Norwegian and American scientists – analysed data from thousands of patients, using genetic variants that increase individuals’ risk of acquiring these conditions. This indicates that losing weight and giving up smoking will have a direct impact in improving your chances of surviving Covid-19.