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Observed COVID-19 variability may have underlying molecular sources

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIH/NIAID

People have different susceptibilities to SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, and develop varying degrees of fever, fatigue, and breathing problems—common symptoms of the illness. What might explain this variation?

Scientists at the University of California, Riverside, and University of Southern California may have an answer to this mystery.

In a paper published in Informatics in Medicine Unlocked, the researchers show for the first time that the observed COVID-19 variability may have underlying molecular sources. The finding could help in the development of effective prophylactic and therapeutic strategies against the disease.

“Based on biomarkers and molecular profiles of individuals, one would hope to develop better to accommodate these variations in monitoring virus transmission and disease pathology, which helps guide mitigation and treatment options,” said Sika Zheng, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the UC Riverside School of Medicine, who led the study.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus hijacks human host molecules for fusion and virus replication, attacking human cellular functions. These human host molecules are collectively called SARS-CoV-2 host genes. The researchers systematically analyzed SARS-CoV-2 host gene expression, their variations, and age- and sex-dependency in the using large-scale genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics.

They first found similarity of host gene expression is generally correlated with tissue vulnerability to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Among the six most variably expressed genes in the population they identified ACE2, CLEC4G, and CLEC4M, which are known to interact with the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Higher expression of these genes likely increases the possibility of being infected and of developing severe symptoms. Other variable genes include SLC27A2 and

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Adults Ages 19 Through 26

Young adults need vaccines, too. Vaccines protect young adults from getting serious and even deadly diseases. They may be especially important if you’re living in close quarters with others — like college dorms — and sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, and food. This can make you more likely to come into contact with dangerous germs.

By getting vaccinated, you can help keep yourself, your family, and your community healthy.

Which vaccines are recommended for adults ages 19 through 26?

It’s important for young adults to get vaccines that protect against diseases like the flu and whooping cough. You also need to be up to date on meningococcal and HPV vaccines.

Check this easy-to-read vaccine schedule (PDF – 148KB) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find out which vaccines are recommended for adults ages 19 through 26.

 Find the right vaccines for you

You may also need other vaccines — for example, if you’re planning to travel outside the United States. Learn more about vaccines for:

Make sure your childhood vaccines are up to date

In addition to getting the vaccinations you need now as a young adult, it’s important to make sure you’ve had all of your childhood vaccinations. Find out how to get your vaccination record.

It’s also a good idea to ask your doctor about any childhood shots that you may have missed — or new vaccines that are now available.

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