Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been trying to understand why, even among people of a similar age, some get infected asymptomatically, and others have to fight for their lives, not always, unfortunately, winning this fight?
It seems that we are getting closer to understanding this phenomenon. In the project "Analysis of the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the genome of patients with COVID-19 in order to develop a set of genetic markers determining the individual susceptibility to infection with SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus and the severity of COVID-19 course” led by Professor Marcin Moniuszko MD, PhD (Medical University of Bialystok) and Associate Professor Mirosław Kwaśniewski (Medical University of Bialystok, IMAGENE.ME) it was possible to identify a genetic variant that more than twice increases the risk of severe course and death from COVID-19. It is estimated that up to 14% of Poles have it, although in general it occurs in the European population with a frequency of about 9%. According to the authors of the discovery, it can help in the early identification of the most vulnerable patients.
Study that was conducted with about one and a half thousand of COVID-19 patients under a project funded by Medical Research Agency confirmed that our genes significantly influence the manner of our recovering from COVID-19. The study was conducted under the supervision of the Medical University of Bialystok together with a technology partner, ImageneMe, the Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases in Warsaw, but the tremendous involvement of several dozen clinical centers from all over the country was particularly important.
The study showed that in addition to advanced age and obesity, the risk factor for severe COVID-19 course, even more important than the so-called coexisting diseases, is our genetic profile. Having one of the versions of the gene located on the chromosome 3 causes that in a case of being infected with coronavirus we are more than twice as likely to be infected or even to die from COVID-19.
The results of this discovery allow us to create a relatively simple genetic test (with a degree of difficulty similar to the current test for SARS-CoV-2), which, by identifying the genetic variant associated with chromosome 3, would help to even better identify people at risk of a rapid course of the disease.
The results of their research, scientists from the Medical University of Bialystok presented at a press conference (Thursday 13.01.2022) with the participation of the Minister of Health Dr. Adam Niedzielski and the President of Medical Research Agency, Radoslaw Sierpiński, MD, PD. The conference was held at the Medical University of Bialystok.
Thanking the scientists for the important discovery, the Minister of Health, Dr. Adam Niedzielski, said that it is in the interests of Polish state to respond quickly to threats such as Covid-19. The Minister recalled that shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic, he ordered the Medical Research Agency to organise contests for researchers that will contribute to a better understanding of the coronavirus and allow it to be effectively combated. He emphasised that the discovery of scientists from Białystok is the result of such an order and an example of effective involvement of the state in protecting the health of Poles. Minister A. Niedzielski added that the ministry will support scientists in the prompt introduction of the PCR test, which will answer the question whether we have a genetic predisposition to get sick with the severe form of Covid-19.
- Although the results of our research are still a scientific discovery, we very much hope that on their basis, a widely available test for patients, doctors and diagnosticians will be created to identify people at greater risk of severe disease. Such a test may help to better identify people who, if infected, may be at risk of a rapid course of the disease before infection occurs. Then, such people could receive special care, increased protection both preventive (additional doses of protective vaccinations) and medical (new treatments directed against SARS-CoV-2) - suggests Professor Marcin Moniuszko.
President of the Medical Research Agency, which funded the research, Radoslaw Sierpiński, MD, PhD stressed that the discovery of a team of scientists led by Professor Marcin Moniuszko from the MUB is of a global character and can be implemented worldwide, moreover, it is an important step to win against the coronavirus pandemic. It is extremely important to examine patients with a test that will quickly determine whether we have a genetic predisposition to severe course of Covid-19 – added R. Sierpiński, MD, PhD. MRA and the Minister, when asked by journalists about when such a ready-made test could appear on the market, replied that they would do everything to make it possible within a few months. Professor M. Moniuszko added that genomic studies should not be a luxury in Poland, but an obligation because they allow to better know the disease and its course in individual patients. They should become an element of prevention. Currently, obtaining a patent for the invention and its commercialization is pending.