Gene Region Found That May Boost Virus Susceptibility in Men

In the latest peek into the genetics of Covid-19, testing giant LLC has identified a DNA region that may explain why the virus appears to impact men more than women.

In April, Ancestry launched a study that sought to use millions of profiles in its DNA database to shed light genetics’ role in the disease. A preliminary finding released late Monday identified a region near the IVNS1ABP gene that may be linked to higher susceptibility.

The region was associated with 44% higher odds of Covid-19 susceptibility in males. Women with the same DNA difference didn’t show any increased risk of infection.

If the gene area is involved in susceptibility, it “could help scientists understand why some people are more seriously affected by the virus,” said Catherine Ball, Ancestry’s Chief Scientific Officer. “It’s notable that this genetic association is observed only in men -- it may be a clue that helps scientists understand why men are more likely to experience severe Covid-19 symptoms.”

In influenza infections, the gene in question plays a role in helping the virus replicate itself within the body. The new findings, researchers said, could suggest a similar mechanism at play.

Factors such as age and preexisting health conditions can determine how people fare once they’ve contracted Covid-19. But those alone don’t explain the wide diversity of symptoms, or why some people contract the disease and others don’t.

Ancestry’s study is expected to continue over the next several months, and the company said it plans to submit its findings to peer review.

Other groups, including Ancestry competitor 23andMe Inc., are also combing the genome to help make sense of the virus. Findings from 23andMe published last month found differences in a gene that influences a person’s blood type can affect a person’s susceptibility to Covid-19.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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