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Genome-wide association study of skin and soft tissue infection susceptibility

By Tormod Rogne, Kristin V Liyanarachi, Humaira Rasheed, Laurent F. Thomas, Helene M Flatby, Mari Loset, Dipender Gill, Stephen Burgess, Cristen J. Willer, Kristian Hveem, Bjorn O Asvold, Ben M Brumpton, Andrew T. DeWan, Erik Solligard, Jan K Damas

Posted 04 Sep 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.03.20187468

Background: Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are common worldwide, but little is known about the genetic susceptibility and the causal effect of cardiometabolic risk factors. We therefore conducted the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of SSTIs, with downstream analyses including Mendelian randomization analyses. Methods: The GWAS was conducted using the UK Biobank as discovery cohort, with 6,107 cases and 399,239 controls, and the Trondelag Health Study (HUNT) as replication cohort with 1,657 cases and 67,522 controls. Cases and controls were those who had or had not been hospitalized with an SSTI diagnosis, respectively. Findings: One locus, lead single-nucleotide polymorphism rs3749748 in LINC01184/SLC12A2, was associated with SSTIs in the UK Biobank (odds ratio [OR] 1.19, p-value = 7.6e-16) and replicated in HUNT (OR 1.15, p-value = 6.3e-4). Meta-analysis confirmed the lead variant (OR 1.18, p-value = 4.4e-18), as well as suggested two additional loci close to genome-wide significance (rs2007361 in PSMA1, OR 0.91, p-value = 5.1e-8; and rs78625038 in GAN, OR 1.86, p-value = 5.9e-8). Gene-based association tests identified four genes linked to SSTIs: SLC12A2, PSMA1, GAN, and IL6R. The minor allele of rs3749748 reduced the gene expression of SLC12A2 primarily in monocytes and macrophages. Mendelian randomization analyses showed that increasing body mass index and lifetime smoking habits increased risk of SSTIs. Interpretation: LINC0118/SLC12A2 was robustly associated with SSTI incidence and may exert its effect through reduced gene expression in monocytes and macrophages. Reducing tobacco smoking, overweight and obesity in the population may reduce the incidence of SSTIs.

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