Ethnic differences in alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency allele frequencies may partially explain national differences in COVID-19 fatality rates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Infection rates, severity, and fatalities due to COVID-19, the pandemic mediated by SARS-CoV-2, vary greatly between countries. With few exceptions, these are lower in East and Southeast Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries compared with other regions. Epidemiological differences may reflect differences in border closures, lockdowns, and social distancing measures taken by each county, and by cultural differences, such as common use of face masks in East and Southeast Asian countries. The plasma serine protease inhibitor alpha-1 antitrypsin was suggested to protect from COVID-19 by inhibiting TMPRSS2, a cell surface serine protease essential for the SARS-CoV-2 cell entry. Here, we present evidence that population differences in alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency allele frequencies may partially explain national differences in the COVID-19 epidemiology. Our study compared reported national estimates for the major alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency alleles PiZ and PiS (SERPINA1 rs28929474 and rs17580, respectively) with the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center dataset. We found a significant positive correlation (R =.54, P = 1.98e−6) between the combined frequencies of the alpha-1 antitrypsin PiZ and PiS deficiency alleles in 67 countries and their reported COVID-19 mortality rates. Our observations suggest that alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency alleles may contribute to national differences in COVID-19 infection, severity, and mortality rates. Population-wide screening for carriers of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency alleles should be considered for prioritizing individuals for stricter social distancing measures and for receiving a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine once it becomes available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14160-14165
Number of pages6
JournalFASEB Journal
Volume34
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • SERPINA1
  • alpha-1 antitrypsin
  • rs17580
  • rs28929474

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