MBJ: St. Jude-led researchers identify flu-risk genetic marker
A group of Memphis researchers have identified a genetic marker that could detect high-risk flu patients.
Researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital discovered an inherited genetic variation that may help identify patients at greater risk for severe, potentially fatal flu infections and linked the gene variant to a mechanism that explains the increased risk. The scientific journal Nature Medicine published the study.
Researchers screened 393 flu patients ranging from infants to age 70. Patients with a particular variation in a particular gene were more than twice as likely to develop severe, life-threatening flu symptoms as those who carried the protective version of the gene.
“A genetic marker of flu risk could make a life-saving difference, particularly during severe flu outbreaks, by helping prioritize high-risk patients for vaccination, drug therapy and other interventions,” said corresponding author Paul Thomas, an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Immunology, in a news release.
Age, obesity, pregnancy, chronic lung disease and heart disease are all associated with an increased risk of flu complications and death, but there are no proven genetic markers of flu risk with an established mechanism of action.
Researchers screened three groups of U.S. flu patients — including 86 children and adults in Memphis.
The work was funded in part by ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude; Genentech Inc.; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; the National Institutes of Health; and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.