23andMe COVID-19 Study Finds Genetic Link to Loss of Smell in COVID-19 Patients

SUNNYVALE, California, June 7, 2021 / PRNewswire / – 23andMe Inc., a leading consumer genetics and research company, today announced that 23andMe researchers have identified a new genetic variant associated with induced loss of smell and taste by COVID-19.

An individual with a copy of the variant is approximately 11.5% more likely to lose their sense of smell or taste

The results, published in a preprint published on medRxiv, note that the genetic variant is close to two olfactory genes. Loss of smell and / or taste, also called anosmia, is a hallmark symptom of COVID-19. This is often the first sign of infection and in some cases the only symptom. A person with one copy of the variant is about 11.5% more likely to lose their sense of smell or taste if infected compared to a person with zero copies.

The research builds on work already done by 23andMe over the past year which includes new findings around the role of the blood group severity and susceptibility to the virus. Since the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 first enters the body and accumulates in olfactory support cells, the findings may offer researchers important information about the pathway of infection.

For these results, the researchers again used data from more than one million people who consented to participate in the 23andMe program. COVID-19 study. By examining the differences in the genome between COVID-19 cases that suffered and did not experience loss of taste or odor, 23andMe scientists identified an association on chromosome 4 close to the olfactory genes UGT2A1 and UGT2A2.

Two-thirds (68%) of people in the 23andMe COVID-19 study who tested positive for the virus reported loss of smell or taste, compared with just 17% of those who tested negative. In addition, in a model adjusted for other symptoms, age and gender, loss of smell or taste had a seven-fold higher probability of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 among patients. people reporting illness.

Scientists conducted separate genome-wide association studies for individuals of European, Latin American, African American, East Asian, and South Asian ancestry, then combined the data via a meta-analysis. . The researchers found that the frequency of the risk allele is most often seen in individuals of European ancestry (37%) and less frequently observed in individuals of East Asian ancestry (19%).

The researchers also found that in young people with COVID-19, loss of smell and taste was more common. Among people aged 26 to 35, 73 percent reported loss of smell, while only 43 percent reported loss of smell in those 85 or older. When the researchers looked at the differences between men and women, they found that women were more likely than men to report a loss of smell or taste (72 percent versus 61 percent).

Little is known about what the genetic variant (rs7868383) fact, or how that affects the likelihood of losing your smell or taste during a SARS-CoV-2 infection. But the UGT2A1 / 2 odor genes are part of a family of enzymes called uridine diphosphate glycosyltransferases, and are expressed in the olfactory epithelium and metabolize odorous compounds. In the 23andMe database, these two genes are linked to things like ice cream taste preference and ability to smell measured by a self-reported five-point scale from very poor to very good.

About 23andMe
23andMe, Inc., headquartered at Sunnyvale, California, is a leading consumer genetics and research company. Founded in 2006, the company’s mission is to help people access, understand and benefit from the human genome. 23andMe pioneered direct access to genetic information as the only company with multiple FDA clearances for genetic health risk reporting. The company has created the world’s largest crowdsourcing platform for genetic research, with 80 percent of its clients choosing to participate. The 23andMe research platform has generated more than 180 publications on the genetic foundations of a wide range of diseases, conditions and traits. The platform also powers the 23andMe Therapeutics group, which is currently pursuing drug discovery programs rooted in human genetics in a wide range of pathological areas, including oncology, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, in addition to other therapeutic areas. More information is available at www.23andMe.com.

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SOURCE 23andMe

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