Susceptibility Gene Identified as Potential Long Covid Risk Factor

July 27, 2023

A recent preprint from medRxiv identified a gene that is thought to be a risk factor for developing Long COVID, complementing another article published in Nature which also reported that the gene FOXP4 increases the risk of Long COVID by 1.6-fold

FOXP4 is expressed in some immune cells, lung cells, and other organs to a lesser extent. This is not the first time FOXP4 has been implicated in disease development. The current study pooled data from several previous COVID-19 genetics studies, including one identifying FOXP4 as increasing the risk of severe COVID. Furthermore, research has associated the gene with lung cancer. 

Although the research included data from 6,450 people with Long COVID in 16 countries, it is possible that some confounding variables may have unintentionally been introduced given that it was pooled from 24 different studies. With the help of sophisticated statistics, researchers determined that it is not just the increased risk of lung cancer or severe COVID producing this result. Interestingly, it also appears that the gene’s correlation with increased Long COVID risk is even stronger than its association with increased risk of severe COVID.

Further research is ongoing to study the genomes of larger cohorts of people, both to confirm the effect of FOXP4 and to identify other genetic risk factors for Long COVID.