24.12.2020 change 24.12.2020

Nature journal praises Polish scientists for groundbreaking COVID-19 research

Credit: Fotolia Credit: Fotolia

Polish scientists have been praised for their groundbreaking research into coronavirus.

Appearing in prestigious publication Nature which looked at the 10 key discoveries for science and humanity in 2020, the scientists were recognised for their work on the genetic background of the course of COVID-19. 
Carried out by the COVID Human Genetic Effort (covidhge.com) consortium, the research brought together over 200 global institutions,  including the Central Clinical Hospital of the Ministry of Interior and Administration in Warsaw (the research was initiated by Dr. Zbigniew Król), the laboratory of the Department of Molecular Biophysics of the Adam Mickiewicz University and the MNM Diagnostics (the team headed by Dr. Paweł Zawadzki).
Dr. Zawadzki said: “We analysed the genetic material from people suffering with severe COVID-19 and it turned out that some of the subjects had very specific genetic variants, practically not found in people who have had a mild form of SARS-CoV-2 infection. 
“It seems that we have candidates for genetic variants that determine the severe course of COVID-19.”
Among other things, the research indicates that interferon deficiencies, in particular type I (IFN-I), lead to uncontrolled replication and spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and may have additional consequences for the functioning of the immune system. 
Such deficiencies may be caused by hereditary mutations in the genes encoding key antiviral signalling molecules, or by the production of antibodies that 'neutralize' IFN-I by binding to it. People with genetic changes that affect the IFN-I induction pathway would benefit from interferon-based therapy.
Dr. Zawadzki said: “We are currently looking for +superheroes+ resistant to COVID and for a gene that gives people immunity to infection. It seems that 1 percent to 5 percent of our population is not infected with SARS-CoV-2 for amazing reasons. We want to understand why some people are immune, whether there is a genetic factor that protects them. If we manage to determine that, it may turn out to be another groundbreaking discovery.”
The scientist previously told PAP that the phenomenon of innate immunity is observed in the case of every virus (for example, the herpes virus or HIV) and affects very few people. Finding these ‘superheroes' will help understand what their defence mechanism is. With simple genetic testing it will be possible to determine which people in the population should not be afraid of SARS-CoV-2 at all and who is particularly at risk of severe infection.
Scientists from MNM Diagnostics and the Central Clinical Hospital of the Ministry of Interior and Administration in Warsaw want to test hundreds of people from all over Poland who have not been infected with the coronavirus, despite having contact with an infected person - for example, household members or relatives.
PAP - Science in Poland, Paweł Wernicki
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