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Coding variants in ACE2 and TMPRSS2 are not major drivers of COVID-19 severity in UK Biobank subjects.

By David Curtis

Posted 02 May 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.01.20085860

It is plausible that variants in the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 genes might contribute to variation in COVID-19 severity and that these could explain why some people become very unwell whereas most do not. Exome sequence data was obtained for 49,953 UK Biobank subjects of whom 74 had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and could be presumed to have severe disease. A weighted burden analysis was carried out using SCOREASSOC to determine whether there were differences between these cases and the other sequenced subjects in the overall burden of rare, damaging variants in ACE2 or TMPRSS2. There were no statistically significant differences in weighted burden scores between cases and controls for either gene. There were no individual DNA sequence variants with a markedly different frequency between cases and controls. Whether there are small effects on severity, or whether there might be rare variants with major effect sizes, would require studies in much larger samples. Genetic variants affecting the structure and function of the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 proteins are not a major determinant of whether infection with SARS-CoV-2 results in severe symptoms. This research has been conducted using the UK Biobank Resource.

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