Genome wide association study of COVID-19 clinical outcomes in population of Serbia

Marko Zečević, IMGGI and Seven Bridges, Belgrade, Serbia

Abstract: Host genetics, an important contributor to the COVID-19 clinical susceptibility and severity, currently is the focus of multiple genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in populations affected by the pandemic. This is the first study from Serbia that performed a GWAS of COVID-19 outcomes to identify genetic risk markers of disease severity. A group of 128 hospitalized COVID-19 patients from the Serbian population was enrolled in the study. A GWAS  was conducted comparing (1) patients with pneumonia (n = 80) against patients without pneumonia (n = 48), and (2) severe (n = 34) against mild disease (n = 48) patients, using a genotyping array followed by imputation of missing genotypes. The previously reported COVID-19 risk locus at 3p21.31 was replicated – suggestively associated in our data with both pneumonia and severe COVID-19. A significant signal associated with COVID-19-related pneumonia was detected at locus 13q21.33 and several suggestive associations have also been observed at chromosomes 5p15.33, 5q11.2, and 9p23. The genes located in or near the risk loci are expressed in neural or lung tissues, and have been previously associated with respiratory diseases such as asthma and COVID-19 or reported as differentially expressed in COVID-19 gene expression profiling studies. Our results revealed novel risk loci for pneumonia and severe COVID-19 disease which could contribute to a better understanding of the COVID-19 host genetics in different populations.

Biography: For the past seven years, Marko Zečvić has been working as a bioinformatics analyst at Seven Bridges, the industry-leading
bioinformatics ecosystem provider. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in genomics, investigating genetic risk factors for severe
COVID-19 in the Laboratory for Molecular Biomedicine at the Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering (IMGGE) in
Belgrade, Serbia.