The risk of contracting the COVID-19 infection and the severity of the disease caused by it are related to an individual’s genetic make-up, Mikhail Churnosov, who heads the Molecular Genetics Laboratory and is a professor at the Belgorod State National Research University (BelSU NRU) told TASS.
"Why do some get infected, or get severely ill, and others don't? One of the explanations is an individual’s genetic characteristics including those defining the performance of certain enzymes, in particular, the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). <...> About 90% of human illnesses are genetic in nature to a certain extent, including the predisposition to infectious diseases, in this case — to COVID-19. The cause of the illness is the coronavirus which triggers the disease once inside the body but some [people] are more sensitive to it, others less, and the course of illness is also defined by genetic factors," the professor said.
The angiotensin-converting enzyme is a special enzyme which maintains both water-electrolyte balance and normal arterial blood pressure. Traces of ACE are found in all tissues of the human body and in the blood.
According to the expert, it is known already that people with type A blood are the most susceptible to the coronavirus infection. "In this particular case, this blood type is a genetic marker of the neighboring genes which define a body’s reaction to various external objects. Serious somatic pathology — diabetes, obesity, and other illnesses of genetic nature, is also the factor that may cause the severe course of illness due to coronavirus. The opinion has been voiced already that the ACE receptors which define the predisposition to the COVID-19 infection are also involved in the development of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes," the expert said.
He didn’t exclude the possibility that future studies of the genetic predisposition to the coronavirus infection may be conducted at the Molecular Genetics Lab of the BelSU NRU. "Who may contract certain diseases, who is predisposed to various illnesses, this is based on genetic characteristics which all of us have, we received them from our parents and they are passed down from generation to generation. <...> There are also environmental factors that elicit it or serve as a risk factors. If present, a person with such a hereditary predisposition runs a significantly elevated risk of developing the illness," the scientist explained.
According to the latest statistics, over 10,429,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 508,000 deaths have been reported. To date, 647,849 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, with 412,650 patients having recovered from the disease. Russia’s latest data indicates 9,320 fatalities nationwide. Earlier, the Russian government set up an Internet hotline to keep the public updated on the coronavirus situation.