COVID-19: Understanding Inter-Individual Variability and Implications for Precision Medicine

Naveen L. Pereira, Ferhaan Ahmad, Mirnela Byku, Nathan W. Cummins, Alanna A. Morris, Anjali Owens, Sony Tuteja, Sharon Cresci

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is characterized by heterogeneity in susceptibility to the disease and severity of illness. Understanding inter-individual variation has important implications for not only allocation of resources but also targeting patients for escalation of care, inclusion in clinical trials, and individualized medical therapy including vaccination. In addition to geographic location and social vulnerability, there are clear biological differences such as age, sex, race, presence of comorbidities, underlying genetic variation, and differential immune response that contribute to variability in disease manifestation. These differences may have implications for precision medicine. Specific examples include the observation that androgens regulate the expression of the enzyme transmembrane protease, serine 2 which facilitates severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 viral entry into the cell; therefore, androgen deprivation therapy is being explored as a treatment option in males infected with COVID-19. An immunophenotyping study of COVID-19 patients has shown that a subset develop T cytopenia which has prompted a clinical trial that is testing the efficacy of interleukin-7 in these patients. Predicting which COVID-19 patients will develop progressive disease that will require hospitalization has important implications for clinical trials that target outpatients. Enrollment of patients at low risk for progression of disease and hospitalization would likely not result in such therapy demonstrating efficacy. There are efforts to use artificial intelligence to integrate digital data from smartwatch applications or digital monitoring systems and biological data to enable identification of the high risk COVID-19 patient. The ultimate goal of precision medicine using such modern technology is to recognize individual differences to improve health for all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-463
Number of pages18
JournalMayo Clinic Proceedings
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


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