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Critical illness in COVID-19 is caused by inflammatory lung injury, mediated by the host immune system. We and others have shown that host genetic variation influences the development of illness requiring critical care1 or hospitalisation2;3;4 following SARS-Co-V2 infection. The GenOMICC (Genetics of Mortality in Critical Care) study is designed to compare genetic variants in critically-ill cases with population controls in order to find underlying disease mechanisms. Here, we use whole genome sequencing and statistical fine mapping in 7,491 critically-ill cases compared with 48,400 population controls to discover and replicate 22 independent variants that significantly predispose to life-threatening COVID-19. We identify 15 new independent associations with critical COVID-19, including variants within genes involved in interferon signalling (IL10RB, PLSCR1), leucocyte differentiation (BCL11A), and blood type antigen secretor status (FUT2). Using transcriptome-wide association and colocalisation to infer the effect of gene expression on disease severity, we find evidence implicating expression of multiple genes, including reduced expression of a membrane flippase (ATP11A), and increased mucin expression (MUC1), in critical disease. We show that comparison between critically-ill cases and population controls is highly efficient for genetic association analysis and enables detection of therapeutically-relevant mechanisms of disease. Therapeutic predictions arising from these findings require testing in clinical trials.

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