A research group from the Center for Virology at the Medical University of Vienna, led by Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl, has now shown, in collaboration with doctors from Klinik Favoriten, that people with a partial or total absence of the NKG2C receptor are most likely to develop severe COVID-19.
In their study, which was recently published in the journal "Genetics in Medicine", the authors showed that people who required hospitalisation with COVID-19 were significantly more likely to exhibit the genetic variation underlying the lack of the receptor than people who only experienced mild disease. Puchhammer-Stöckl explains: "Absence of the receptor was particularly prevalent in COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care units, irrespective of age or gender. Genetic variations on the HLA-E of the infected cell were also associated with disease severity, albeit to a lesser extent."
The current study therefore shows the major importance of NK-cell response in the battle against SARS-CoV-2 infection: "This part of the immune response could therefore also represent an important target for drugs that could help to prevent severe COVID-19 disease," explains the MedUni Vienna expert.
Service: Genetics in Medicine
Deletion of the NKG2C receptor encoding KLRC2 gene and HLA-E variants are risk factors for severe COVID-19. Vietzen H, Zoufaly A, Traugott M, Aberle J, Aberle SW, Puchhammer-Stöckl E. Genet Med. 2021 Jan 26:1-5. doi: 10.1038/s41436-020-01077-7. Online ahead of print. PMID: 33500568 Free PMC article.