Professor Christoph Lange and Research Associate Georg Hahn are part of a team leading important research in the fight against COVID-19 by using methodology from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify a mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 variant that has been linked to higher mortality.
The team published a paper, “Genome-wide association analysis of COVID-19 mortality risk in SARS-CoV-2 genomes identifies mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that colocalizes with P.1 of the Brazilian strain” on June 23, 2021 in the journal Genetic Epidemiology. Other researchers from the Harvard Chan School who contributed to the study included Sanghun Lee, Sharon Lutz, Sebastien Haneuse, and Nan Laird.
Read the full press release from the Harvard Chan School.
Via WCVB Boston:
Researchers from Harvard University studied the DNA of COVID-19 viruses taken from more than 8,000 patients in an attempt to find connections between mutations and the most severe illnesses.
“We were trying to find positions in the COVID-19 genome that predict the outcome of COVID-19,” said researcher Christoph Lange. “We were very surprised when Georg found one, in particular, that was very predictive of mortality.”
“If there was some alteration there then it seemed that people were at very high risk of dying,” said fellow researcher Georg Hahn.
All of the samples with that particular mutation came from South America. This was later identified as the Gamma, or P.1, variant. Those infected with this mutation had a 70% chance of dying from the virus. Researchers concluded that their method was a valuable tool with potential for use against other viruses, including the flu.
“We can use exactly the same methodology in the future both for COVID data and possibly also for other data,” said Hahn.
“It could be very valuable going into the fall, where we don’t know what is going to happen,” said Lange.