Genetic and immunological causes explain 15% of severe forms of Covid-19: for this reason the individual response to the infection varies greatly from person to person. It is the result of a study conducted by the International Genetics Consortium and published in two articles in the journal Science. This research makes it possible to take a step forward in therapy and prevention by identifying people at risk.

Coordinated by Jean-Laurent Casanova, of Rockefeller University, the research is conducted by the International Consortium of Genetics (Covidhge), in which Italy participates with the Laboratory of Medical Genetics of the University of Rome Tor Vergata directed by Giuseppe Novelli, the San Raffaele Institute in Milan and the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome.

Making some individuals more vulnerable to new coronavirus infection is a defect in the production of type I interferons, proteins that help regulate the immune system’s activity against virus attacks. The discovery is based on the DNA analysis of over 700 patients with severe forms of the disease and indicates that in 3-4% of cases the severe forms depend on mutations that block the production of type I interferon, while in 10-11 % of the cases have been identified auto-antibodies, ie antibodies that attack the immune system to which they belong.

“The genes active in the defense mechanisms when mutated seem to favor the severity of the disease”, observes Novelli, co-author of the research. “This study – he added – shows that our genes can therefore influence the way in which the immune system responds. to an infection, and thus clarify why some people have more severe symptoms of the disease and direct a subgroup of patients towards targeted therapy “.