Vanderbilt researchers identify genetic link to pneumonia

AM AARON PNEUMONIA AND COVID VO.transfer_frame_700.jpeg
Posted at 7:54 AM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 08:54:21-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Vanderbilt University researchers have figured out a way to identify COVID-19 patients who are at the greatest risk of pneumonia.

Vanderbilt researchers conducted studies of more than 85,000 patients and researchers identified nearly 9,000 cases of pneumonia in patients of European ancestry and about 1,700 cases in patients of African ancestry. Their findings were recently published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Researchers say this study is important because they performed analyses separately based on race to identify genetic risk factors contributing to pneumonia.

Jennifer Below, PhD, associate professor of Medicine, said combined with systemic racism and socioeconomic factors, these genetic risk differences may contribute to some of the disparities we observed in COVID-19 outcomes.

The research found the strongest pneumonia association in patients of European ancestry was the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. In patients of African ancestry, it's the mutation that causes sickle cell disease.

Researchers say they'll work to determine whether these carriers are at risk of a poor outcome if they get COVID-19. The great thing is this research may be able to identify people with a higher risk of severe pneumonia and develop a precise treatment for them – potentially saving many lives. Read more about the study here.