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Title: Evaluation of the genetic risk for COVID-19 outcomes in COPD and differences among worldwide populations
Author: Marçalo, Rui
Neto, Sonya
Pinheiro, Miguel
Rodrigues, Ana J.
Sousa, Nuno
Santos, Manuel A. S.
Simão, Paula
Valente, Carla
Andrade, Lília
Marques, Alda
Moura, Gabriela R.
Keywords: COPD
Genetic risk
Issue Date: 23-Feb-2022
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Abstract: Populations seem to respond differently to the global pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Recent studies show individual variability in both susceptibility and clinical response to COVID-19 infection. People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) constitute one of COVID-19 risk groups, being already associated with a poor prognosis upon infection. This study aims contributing to unveil the underlying reasons for such prognosis in people with COPD and the variability in the response observed across worldwide populations, by looking at the genetic background as a possible answer to COVID-19 infection response heterogeneity. SNPs already associated with susceptibility to COVID-19 infection (rs286914 and rs12329760) and severe COVID-19 with respiratory failure (rs657152 and rs11385942) were assessed and their allelic frequencies used to calculate the probability of having multiple risk alleles. This was performed on a Portuguese case-control COPD cohort, previously clinically characterized and genotyped from saliva samples, and also on worldwide populations (European, Spanish, Italian, African, American and Asian), using publicly available frequencies data. A polygenic risk analysis was also conducted on the Portuguese COPD cohort for the two mentioned phenotypes, and also for hospitalization and survival to COVID-19 infection. No differences in genetic risk for COVID-19 susceptibility, hospitalization, severity or survival were found between people with COPD and the control group (all p-values > 0.01), either considering risk alleles individually, allelic combinations or polygenic risk scores. All populations, even those with European ancestry (Portuguese, Spanish and Italian), showed significant differences from the European population in genetic risk for both COVID-19 susceptibility and severity (all p-values < 0.0001). Our results indicate a low genetic contribution for COVID-19 infection predisposition or worse outcomes observed in people with COPD. Also, our study unveiled a high genetic heterogeneity across major world populations for the same alleles, even within European sub-populations, demonstrating the need to build a higher resolution European genetic map, so that differences in the distribution of relevant alleles can be easily accessed and used to better manage diseases, ultimately, safeguarding populations with higher genetic predisposition to such diseases.
Peer review: yes
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0264009
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