Hematopoietic mosaic chromosomal alterations and risk for infection among 767,891 individuals without blood cancer

medRxiv. 2020 Nov 16;2020.11.12.20230821. doi: 10.1101/2020.11.12.20230821. Preprint


Age is the dominant risk factor for infectious diseases, but the mechanisms linking the two are incompletely understood 1,2 . Age-related mosaic chromosomal alterations (mCAs) detected from blood-derived DNA genotyping, are structural somatic variants associated with aberrant leukocyte cell counts, hematological malignancy, and mortality 3-11 . Whether mCAs represent independent risk factors for infection is unknown. Here we use genome-wide genotyping of blood DNA to show that mCAs predispose to diverse infectious diseases. We analyzed mCAs from 767,891 individuals without hematological cancer at DNA acquisition across four countries. Expanded mCA (cell fraction >10%) prevalence approached 4% by 60 years of age and was associated with diverse incident infections, including sepsis, pneumonia, and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) hospitalization. A genome-wide association study of expanded mCAs identified 63 significant loci. Germline genetic alleles associated with expanded mCAs were enriched at transcriptional regulatory sites for immune cells. Our results link mCAs with impaired immunity and predisposition to infections. Furthermore, these findings may also have important implications for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in prioritizing individual preventive strategies and evaluating immunization responses.

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