Demographic and Viral-Genetic Analyses of COVID-19 Severity in Bahrain Identify Local Risk Factors and a Protective Effect of Polymerase Mutations

medRxiv. 2022 Aug 16;2022.08.13.22278740. doi: 10.1101/2022.08.13.22278740. Preprint


A multitude of demographic, health, and genetic factors are associated with the risk of developing severe COVID-19 following infection by the SARS-CoV-2. There is a need to perform studies across human societies and to investigate the full spectrum of genetic variation of the virus. Using data from 869 COVID-19 patients in Bahrain between March 2020 and March 2021, we analyzed paired viral sequencing and non-genetic host data to understand host and viral determinants of severe COVID-19. We estimated the effects of demographic variables specific to the Bahrain population and found that the impact of health factors are largely consistent with other populations. To extend beyond the common variants of concern in the Spike protein analyzed by previous studies, we used a viral burden approach and detected a protective effect of low-frequency missense viral mutations in the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (Pol) gene on disease severity. Our results contribute to the survey of severe COVID-19 in diverse populations and highlight the benefits of studying rare viral mutations.

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