On June 18, 2020 – 5:00 PM
A genetic analysis of COVID-19 patients suggests that the blood type may influence whether a person develops a serious illness.
Scientists have compared the genes of thousands of patients in Europe has revealed that those who had Type A blood were more likely to have severe disease, while those of Type O have been less likely.
Wednesday’s report published in the New England Journal of Medicine does not prove a blood type connection, but it confirms a previous report from China of a link.
“Most of us discounted it because it was a very crude study,” Dr. Parameswaran Hari, a blood specialist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said the China report. With the new work, “now, I believe,” he said. “It could be very important.”
Other scientists urged caution.
Evidence for a role for the blood type is “tentative … it is not enough to “signal” to be safe”, said Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Translational Research Institute in San Diego.
The study, involving scientists in Italy, in Spain, in Denmark, in Germany and in other countries, compared to about 2 000 patients with severe COVID-19 to several thousands of other people who were in good health or who have had little or no symptoms. The researchers variations in six genes of the likelihood of serious disease, including some that might have a role in the way in which vulnerable people are the virus. They have also developed blood groups of possible risks.
Most genetic studies of this kind are much larger, so it would be important to see if other researchers look at other patient groups to see if they are the same links, Topol said.
Many researchers have been hunting for clues as to why some people infected with the coronavirus become very ill, and others, less. Being older or male seems to increase the risk, and scientists have been looking at the genes as a “host factor that influences the severity of the disease.
There are four main blood types — A, B, AB and O — and “it is determined by proteins on the surface of your red blood cells,” said Dr. Mary Horowitz, chief scientist at the Center for International Blood and Marrow transplant Research.
Individuals of Type O are better able to recognize certain proteins as foreign, and which may be extended to all proteins of the virus surface, Hari explained.
During the SARS outbreak, which was caused by the genetic cousin of the coronavirus causing the current pandemic, “it has been noted that people with O blood type were less likely to contract a serious disease,” he said.
Type of blood has also been linked to susceptibility to certain other infectious diseases such as cholera, infections of the urinary tract with E. coli, and a bug called H. pylori which can cause ulcers and stomach cancer, said Dr. David Valle, director of the Institute of Genetic Medicine of the Johns Hopkins University.
Bottom line: “This is a provocative study. In my opinion it is well worth publishing, and get out of here”, but it needs verification by more patients, Valle said.
The Associated Press the Health and Sciences Department, will receive the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
This story was first published on the 17th of June. It has been updated on 18 June to correct the first name of a blood specialist at the Medical College of Wisconsin. It is Dr. Parameswaran Hari, not Parameswar.
News © The Associated Press, 2020