Computational Biology company PrecisionLife released research that identifies 73 genes that are highly associated with the severe and fatigue dominant forms of long COVID. The results of the study were published on the preprint server medRxiv.
The research provides a detailed genetic look into long COVID and also draws commonalities with other known diseases such as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and provides insight for further research to develop precision diagnostics and treatment approaches for the chronic condition.
It is estimated that some form of chronic COVID has affected more than 100 million people globally. It presents in many different ways with symptoms ranging from respiratory problems and cognitive dysfunction to chronic fatigue. Despite its broad impact, researchers are still catching up with the drivers and phenotypes of long COVID, commonalities with other known diseases, and how to treat them.
“Understanding the complex biology of heterogeneous diseases is key to creating better diagnostic and treatment options for patients,” says Steve Gardner, CEO of PrecisionLife. “These groundbreaking results build upon the genetic findings from previous combinatorial analyses of severe acute COVID-19 and ME/CFS patient populations.”
For the new research, PrecisionLife applied is combinatorial analytics methods to compare subpopulations of long COVID patients from data in Sano Genetics’ ongoing Long COVID-GOLD study. The study is a three-year research effort launched 2021 that will provide as many as 3,000 people in the U.K. who have experienced COVID-like symptoms with a free DNA test. The hope is that the data from the study will provide more detailed information on the genetics of COVID-19 infection risk and why it affects some people so severely with long-term symptoms, while others recover quickly.
“The importance of understanding why some people are left with lasting symptoms–often after only minor original infections–cannot be underestimated,” noted David Strain, who runs the long COVID clinic at Exeter University Medical School and is the principal investigator of Long COVID-Gold. “Now we have a greater knowledge of what our genes actually do, if we can identify those that predispose an individual to developing long COVID, it could open the doors to potential treatment.”
Employing its analytic approach, PrecisionLife identified 73 genes that are highly associated with severe and fatigue dominant forms of the long COVID. Nine of the genes had been previously identified as associated with acute COVID-19 and 14 genes were differentially expressed in a transcriptomic analysis of long COVID patients.
Using this information, the PrecisionLife investigators then compared their results against research of more than 170 neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases to look for similarities they might share with long COVID. This analysis revealed that many of the long COVID genes identified were also associated with a range of other diseases and found that nine of the genes were also associated with CE/CFS as detailed in an earlier combinatorial analysis by PrecisionLife published in December 2022 in the Journal of Translational Medicine.
PrecisionLife notes that of the 73 genes associated with long COVID, 42 are potential targets for the development of novel drugs targeting the disease. Further, 13 of the genes are already targeted by drugs that are currently in development.