COVID-19 symptoms vary from silence to rapid death, the latter mediated by both a cytokine storm and a thrombotic storm. SARS-CoV (2003) induces Cox-2, catalyzing the synthesis, from highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), of eicosanoids and docosanoids that mediate both inflammation and thrombosis. HUFA balance between arachidonic acid (AA) and other HUFA is a likely determinant of net signaling to induce a healthy or runaway physiological response. AA levels are determined by a non-protein coding regulatory polymorphisms that mostly affect the expression of FADS1, located in the FADS gene cluster on chromosome 11. Major and minor haplotypes in Europeans, and a specific functional insertion-deletion (Indel), rs66698963, consistently show major differences in circulating AA (>50%) and in the balance between AA and other HUFA (47-84%) in free living humans; the indel is evolutionarily selective, probably based on diet. The pattern of fatty acid responses is fully consistent with specific genetic modulation of desaturation at the FADS1-mediated 20:3→20:4 step. Well established principles of net tissue HUFA levels indicate that the high linoleic acid and low alpha-linoleic acid in populations drive the net balance of HUFA for any individual. We predict that fast desaturators (insertion allele at rs66698963; major haplotype in Europeans) are predisposed to higher risk and pathological responses to SARS-CoV-2 could be reduced with high dose omega-3 HUFA.
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