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Upper airway epithelial tissue transcriptome analysis reveals immune signatures associated with COVID-19 severity in Ghanaians.

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posted on 2024-02-26, 13:00 authored by John Demby Sandi, Joshua I Levy, Kesego Tapela, Mark Zeller, Joshua Afari Yeboah, Daniel Frimpong Saka, Donald S Grant, Gordon A Awandare, Peter K Quashie, Kristian G Andersen, Lily Paemka
The immunological signatures driving the severity of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) in Ghanaians remain poorly understood. We performed bulk transcriptome sequencing of nasopharyngeal samples from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)-infected Ghanaians with mild and severe COVID-19, as well as healthy controls to characterize immune signatures at the primary SARS-CoV-2 infection site and identify drivers of disease severity. Generally, a heightened antiviral response was observed in SARS-CoV-2-infected Ghanaians compared with uninfected controls. COVID-19 severity was associated with immune suppression, overexpression of proinflammatory cytokines, including CRNN, IL1A, S100A7, and IL23A, and activation of pathways involved in keratinocyte proliferation. SAMD9L was among the differentially regulated interferon-stimulated genes in our mild and severe disease cohorts, suggesting that it may play a critical role in SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis. By comparing our data with a publicly available dataset from a non-African (Indians) (GSE166530), an elevated expression of antiviral response-related genes was noted in COVID-19-infected Ghanaians. Overall, the study describes immune signatures driving COVID-19 severity in Ghanaians and identifies immune drivers that could serve as potential prognostic markers for future outbreaks or pandemics. It further provides important preliminary evidence suggesting differences in antiviral response at the upper respiratory interface in sub-Saharan Africans (Ghanaians) and non-Africans, which could be contributing to the differences in disease outcomes. Further studies using larger datasets from different populations will expand on these findings.

Funding

Medical Research Council (Grant ID: MR/P028071/1, Grant title: GCRF-Crick African Network MR/P028071/1)

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