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Study says people with certain blood types may be especially vulnerable to coronavirus

A new study shows people with type A blood are 50% more likely to need a ventilator while being treated for coronavirus. 

The study comes from the journal MedRxiv and is currently undergoing peer review. While it’s not clear whether the study is appropriate to use as a guide for decisions regarding medical protocol, it points to new understanding of COVID-19 mechanics

Two particular variations in the human genome stood out to experts in this study. One of them is the gene that determines blood type, and the other is the genes controlling the ACE2 protein, which is what enables the coronavirus to bind with human cells. While the blood typing gene was connected to the likeliness of needing to be put on oxygen or a ventilator if that person was infected with COVID-19, genetic variations in ACE2 proteins had no effect. 

The sample population for this study were Italians and Spanish who had the virus in February, as the pandemic ramped up in infections. With blood samples from 1,610 patients, with 9 million of the 3 billion letters in each sample’s genetic code analyzed, researchers looked for loci, or places in the genetic code where patients shared matching variants. 

Previous studies of COVID-19’s effect based on genetics were mainly concerned with proteins like ACE2, which allow the virus to bind with host cells. People whose genetics predisposed them to having proteins that were more difficult to bind with or which prompted a stronger immune response were thought to fare better than those who didn’t. They also focused on gendered differences in vulnerability, where men are predisposed to have fewer toll-like receptors, or TLRs, which affect innate immunity to diseases like COVID-19. 

Once the MedRxiv study comes out of peer review, it will be clearer what doctors and vaccine manufacturers are to do with this new information regarding coronavirus and genetics. 

Sources: New York Times, MedRxiv, Live Science, Scientific American 


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