Down Syndrome, a high risk factor for COVID-19

A CRG study has found different genetic susceptibility factors towards infection and suggests that people with Down Syndrome should be considered a priority group for vaccination.

People with Down syndrome may be more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

In a recent study, researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) identified different genetic factors associated with Down Syndrome that predispose to COVID-19. Thus, the study confirmed the data from previous studies that showed a 10 times higher mortality rate in people with Down syndrome due to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The team, led by Mara Dierssen, analyzed all the public Down Syndrome transcriptomic data and found different genes that could influence susceptibility to COVID-19:

  • TMPRSS2: Encodes an enzyme essential for the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells. 60% higher expression in SD: higher susceptibility.
  • CXCL10: Causes uncontrolled inflammation, an attack to the lung cells and it is one of the possible causes of long-term complications such as pulmonary fibrosis. Higher levels in SD: higher susceptibility.
  • NLRP3: Essential against pathogenic infections. Low levels in SD: higher susceptibility.
  • IFNAR1 and IFNAR2: Related to the response to interferon, which stops viral replication within cells. Extremely active response in SD: lower susceptibility.

“People with Down syndrome should be prioritized immediately for early vaccination against COVID-19 worldwide.”
Mara Dierssen (CRG), author of the study.

With these results, and awaiting further validation from future studies, the authors emphasize the importance of including people with Down Syndrome among the priority groups in the vaccination schedules against COVID-19 around the world.

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