Showing posts with label Infection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Infection. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

FMO3 and COVID-19

Flavin-containing monooxygenase 3 (FMO3) enzyme is a seemingly insignificant enzyme that normally converts fishy-smelling trimethylamine (TMA) into a neutral trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). The amounts of this highly-specialized detoxifying enzyme are highly variable. It depends on the age, sex hormones, infections (estradiol and testosterone, hepatitis virus have been found to reduce FMO3 capacity), obesity traits and diseases such as diabetes. The difference can be up to 20-fold between individuals. Mutations in the FMO3 gene cause low metabolic capacity associated with the disorder trimethylaminuria (TMAU) that attracts little biomedical interest.  This condition, however, might matter more than it seems.

Could there be a link between FMO3 and SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination? 

Individuals differ in their susceptibility to viral infections and genes contribute to the risk score. Less than 10% of humans infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis develop TB, partially because of polymorphism in Tyrosine kinase (TYK2, P1104A) also responsible for severe COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, it was discovered that SARS-CoV-2 infection is dependent on the ACE2 receptor for cell entry and the serine protease TMPRSS2 for spike protein priming. ACE2 expression, indeed, influences COVID-19 risk and a rare variant located close to this gene was found to confer protection against COVID-19, possibly by decreasing ACE2 expression. Interestingly, FMO3 is one of the few genes with expression correlated to ACE2 [Sungnak et al, 2020] along with genes associated with immune functions. 

Coronavirus disease is associated with increased risk of thrombotic events. According to recent research, low levels of FMO3 protect against thrombosis [Shih et al, 2019] while some FMO3 mutations confer higher risk [Oliveira-Filho et al, 2021]. FMO3 rs1736557 might increase the anti‐platelet efficacy of clopidogrel [Zhu et al, 2021]. Genetic risk can be mediated by gut microbiota [Gabashvili, 2020]. There are also associations with other diseases such as diabetes, renal and cardiovascular conditions increasing risk of severe COVID-19. 

Studying trimethylaminuria-like conditions might help in developing strategies for prevention and therapy of other diseases, including COVID-19.

Our COVID-19 disease and vaccines study [NCT04832932, Gabashvili, 2021] compares side-effects of vaccines and clinical course of infections (including vaccine breakthroughs) in several cohorts including MEBO and TMAU. You can help by enrolling and participating in this online survey in English or Spanish.


Andreakos E, Abel L, Vinh DC, Kaja E, Drolet BA, Zhang Q, O’Farrelly C, Novelli G, Rodríguez-Gallego C, Haerynck F, Prando C. A global effort to dissect the human genetic basis of resistance to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nature immunology. 2021 Oct 18:1-6. 

Gabashvili IS. Cutaneous Bacteria in the Gut Microbiome as Biomarkers of Systemic Malodor and People Are Allergic to Me (PATM) Conditions: Insights from a Virtually Conducted Clinical Trial. JMIR Dermatology. 2020 Nov 4;3(1):e10508.  

Gabashvili IS. Community-Based Phenotypic Study of Safety, Tolerability, Reactogenicity and Immunogenicity of Emergency-Use-Authorized Vaccines Against COVID-19 and Viral Shedding Potential of Post-Vaccination Infections: Protocol for an Ambispective study. medRxiv 2021.06.28.21256779; doi:

Liu W, Wang C, Xia Y, Xia W, Liu G, Ren C, Gu Y, Li X, Lu P. Elevated plasma trimethylamine-N-oxide levels are associated with diabetic retinopathy. Acta Diabetologica. 2021 Feb;58(2):221-9.

Janmohamed A, Dolphin CT, Phillips IR, Shephard EA. Quantification and cellular localization of expression in human skin of genes encoding flavin-containing monooxygenases and cytochromes P450. Biochemical pharmacology. 2001 Sep 15;62(6):777-86.

Oliveira-Filho AF, Medeiros PF, Velloso RN, Lima EC, Aquino IM, Nunes AB. Trimethylaminuria and Vascular Complications. Journal of the Endocrine Society. 2021 Apr;5(Supplement_1):A313-4. 

Zhu KX, Song PY, Li MP, Du YX, Ma QL, Peng LM, Chen XP. Association of FMO3 rs1736557 polymorphism with clopidogrel response in Chinese patients with coronary artery disease. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2021 Mar;77(3):359-68.

Sungnak W, Huang N, Bécavin C, Berg M, Queen R, Litvinukova M, Talavera-López C, Maatz H, Reichart D, Sampaziotis F, Worlock KB. SARS-CoV-2 entry factors are highly expressed in nasal epithelial cells together with innate immune genes. Nature medicine. 2020 May;26(5):681-7.

Shih, D.M., Zhu, W., Schugar, R.C., Meng, Y., Jia, X., Miikeda, A., Wang, Z., Zieger, M., Lee, R., Graham, M. and Allayee, H., 2019. Genetic deficiency of Flavin-containing monooxygenase 3 (Fmo3) protects against thrombosis but has only a minor effect on plasma lipid levels—brief report. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 39(6), pp.1045-1054. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Smell of COVID-19

 From oatmeal cookies, rotting apples and burnt chocolate to bleach, gasoline and the smell of wet dog - all infections have a distinct odor signature. Is there a signature for COVID-19?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Odors and Infections

Many illnesses are associated with distinct odors. Especially those caused by infectious or opportunistic microbes inside the body or on its surfaces.  Body odor of someone infected with C. difficile, for example, can appear "swampy", Rotavirus gives sharply sweet putrid smell that some people associate with wet dogs,  H. pylori  can create a range of foul odors, and pseudomonas infections can smell like grapes and bitter almonds

Infections like C. difficile are usually linked to a general imbalance of the intestinal microbiota, often referred to as dysbiosis. This means that the odors could be coming from several microbial species, hence could be different for different individuals. Does it mean odor-based diagnostics will never be enough specific?

Not according to a 2-year-old beagle from Netherland, named Cliff. After just a little over two months of training, the beagle learned to identify the C. diff toxin by sniffing people or their samples. During one test, he was able to identify 25 out of 30 infected patients and 265 of 270 non-infected individuals. He also correctly identified 50 of 50 C. diff positive stool samples and 47 of 50 samples from people that did not have this infection. That's sensitivity of 100% for samples and 83-93% for sniffing the air around the patients, and a specificity of 94-100%! And it took him less than 10 minutes to accurately perform 300 diagnostic tests.  

Dogs already do the dirty work with detecting molds. They can examine an office building with 200 rooms in just 8 hours, a task that would take us several days of measuring  moisture, probably without any result. Electronic noses would be of great help and many years of research are finally being translated into useful technologies - to be integrated with refrigerators and mobile phones. But until we are able to build smart devices to detect odors without labor-intensive dog training, perhaps we could train our own nozzles. Studies have shown we do get better with practice. 


Bomers MK, van Agtmael MA, Luik H, van Veen MC, Vandenbroucke-Grauls CM, & Smulders YM (2012). Using a dog's superior olfactory sensitivity to identify Clostridium difficile in stools and patients: proof of principle study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 345 PMID: 23241268

Poulton J, Tarlow MJ. (1987) Diagnosis of rotavirus gastroenteritis by smell. Arch Dis Child. 1987 Aug;62(8):851-2. PMID: 3662595