Mystery variant doubles Covid-19 severity

But how was it found, and could it help open up new avenues for treatment?

Researchers at Poland’s Medical University of Bialystok have identified a genetic variant that more than doubles the risk of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms in those affected by the virus.

The results of the as-yet unpublished study, which has not yet been published, were announced by the country’s Health Minister last month.

Discovering the variant

The project, funded by Poland’s Medical Research Agency, had sought to “develop a set of genetic markers determining individual susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection and the severity of the course of Covid-19”. 

Researchers discovered the region, located on chromosome 3, by analysing the genomes of 1,500 people with Covid-19 and it is believed to be the fourth most important factor in determining the severity of illness after the patient’s age, BMI, and gender. 

It is estimated that 14% of the Polish population and 9% of Europeans carry at least one copy of the variant. This discrepancy combined with vaccine hesitancy in Eastern Europe may explain why Poland has experienced higher mortality rates during the pandemic than other European states.  

Using findings in practice

Medical Research Agency president Dr Radoslaw Sierpiński noted that the discovery is “global, and can implemented all over the world,” and “an important step to win the [fight against] the coronavirus pandemic”. 

The Polish researchers hope to use their findings to develop a quick genetic test to help identify patients who are more likely to have poorer outcomes from Covid-19. They state that they will aim to make this possible within the coming months. 

More news about the variant, as well as the release of a genetic test, will be covered on this blog as it becomes available.

Please note: This article is for informational or educational purposes, and does not substitute professional medical advice.