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Genetic Determinants of Susceptibility to Sars-Cov-2 and Severity of Covid-19 Outcomes Among Ghanaians

Genetic Determinants of Susceptibility to Sars-Cov-2 and Severity of Covid-19 Outcomes Among Ghanaians

Project Lead(s)
Associate Professor
Project Background 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage. New findings about the clinical presentation continue to unfold; but there are many questions to be answered as to why some SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals are extremely sensitive and develop severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) while others are asymptomatic. It is known that advanced age and pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular, pulmonary, and renal diseases render a person more vulnerable to the more severe health consequences of COVID-19 (Blanco-Melo et al., 2020). Thus, what makes some people more vulnerable than others to SARS-CoV-2 awaits scientific investigation. Studies on (Li et al., 2005) viruses may suggest genetics play a role in determining or influencing efficiency of infection, immune response to infection, and severity of COVID-19 in different individuals. A recent in silico analysis carried out by Nguyen and colleagues (2020) highlighted genetic variability in the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) system as potential determinants of a person’s resistance or susceptibility to the disease.  However, it is noteworthy that the analysis was based entirely on theoretical data, since individual-level HLA typing and data on clinical outcomes for populations affected by COVID-19 were not yet available, and therefore not able to assess the real impact of HLA type and other potential host genetic factors in COVID-19 outcomes. 

Objectives/Research Areas 

This proposal seeks to characterize genomic variation of main HLA class I and class II genes as well as KIR genes and their associations (susceptibility/protection) with SARS-CoV-2 infection and specifically to; 

  1. determine the molecular epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in infected individuals seen at three hospitals in Accra, Ghana. 
  2. document COVID-19 presentations in SARS-CoV-2 infections in Ghana. 
  3. determine the frequencies of ABO blood types and their association with COVID-19 clinical outcome in Ghanaian patients. 
  4. characterize and determine the frequencies of class I and class II HLA and KIR genotypes among COVID-19 infected individuals. 
  5. determine association between HLA/KIR genotypes and SARS-CoV-2 infection in Ghanaian patients. 
  6. describe HLA/KIR alleles that influence outcome of COVID-19 in the study population. 
Ongoing Activities  

The study has obtained ethical clearance from the Ethic Review Board, Korle Bu and is at the initiation phase of sample collection 

External Collaborator(s) 
Dr. Zabrina Brumme, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Euan Ashley, MB ChB, DPhill and Director of Stanford Clinical Genomics Program. Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
Marcelo Fernández-Viña, PhD, Director Stanford HLA Lab. Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA. Gonzalo Montero-Martin, M.Sc., Research Associate. Department of Pathology School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Stanford University