Genetic variability in the human immune system may affect susceptibility to, and severity of infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The research is published today in the Journal of Virology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.
Individual genetic variation may explain differences in the strength of immune responses. Certain immune system genes, called human leukocyte antigen genes that are involved in recognizing pathogens, vary from person to person. Variations can influence how well the immune system recognizes a given pathogen. Poor recognition of SARS-CoV-2 could cause a person to be more vulnerable to the virus.
The authors show that individual HLA, haplotype, and full genotype variability likely influence the capacity to respond to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and note that certain alleles in particular could be associated with more severe infection, as has previously been shown with SARS-CoV.