Researchers have identified an inherited genetic variation that they believe helps identify those at the highest risk for potentially fatal influenza infections.
Among the advantages the discovery brings, it is hope that the genetic marker would allow for prioritizing vaccination, drug therapy, and other treatments for the most at risk during times of severe influenza outbreaks.
Studying 393 flu patients who ranged from infants to 70-year-olds, the researchers, who are at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, pinpointed the gene IFITM3 as an indicator that a patient would be twice as likely to develop severe, life-threatening flu symptoms compared to those who carried the protective version of the gene.
Investigators were able to show how expression of the IFITM3 protein was reduced in killer T cells of patients with the high-risk variant compared to other patients. Researchers also found more killer T cells in the upper airways of flu patients with the protective variant compared to other patients.