European study links genes, blood type with risk of severe coronavirus infection

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains that one current model's prediction of 200,000 deaths in the US from Covid-19 by October may be an underprediction.

Posted: Jun 16, 2020 9:43 AM
Updated: Jun 17, 2020 10:15 PM


A team of European scientists say they have found two genetic variations that may show who is more likely to get very sick and die from coronavirus, and they say they have also found a link to blood type.

Their findings, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, point to a possible explanation for why some people get so seriously ill with the virus, while most barely show any symptoms at all.

They found people with Type A blood have a higher risk of catching coronavirus and of developing severe symptoms, while people with Type O blood have a lower risk.

'Our genetic data confirm that blood group O is associated with a risk of acquiring Covid-19 that was lower than that in non-O blood groups, whereas blood group A was associated with a higher risk than non-A blood groups,' the researchers wrote in their report. They found people with Type A blood had a 45% higher risk of becoming infected than people with other blood types, and people with Type O blood were just 65% as likely to become infected as people with other blood types.

The large international team first published their findings on a non-peer-reviewed preprint server. The report has now been reviewed and published in the widely respected journal.

Trawling for genes

The researchers, led by Andre Franke, a professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kiel in Germany, studied more than 1,900 severely ill coronavirus patients in Spain and Italy, and compared them to 2,300 people who were not sick. They did what's known as a genome-wide association study, trawling through the entire genetic map to find two DNA variations that were more common in the sickest patients.

'We detected a novel susceptibility locus at a chromosome 3p21.31 gene cluster and confirmed a potential involvement of the ABO blood-group system in Covid-19,' they wrote. And two places in the genome were linked with the risk of developing respiratory failure.

The researchers cannot say if blood type is a direct cause of the differences in susceptibility. It might be that the genetic changes that affect someone's risk also just happen to be linked with blood type, they said.

The two genetic variations they found could be associated with a person's immune response. A so-called cytokine storm -- an overwhelming overreaction of the immune system -- is blamed for the deadliest effect of coronavirus in many patients.

Dr. Roy Silverstein, a hematologist who is the chairman of the department of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, says the blood type link is plausible.

The genes that control blood type also affect structures called sugars on the surfaces of cells, which in turn could affect the ability of the virus to infect those cells, he said. Plus, blood type is linked with the risk of developing blood clots, and it's now clear that severe coronavirus infections are marked by unusual blood clotting throughout the body.

But Silverstein, a past president of the American Society of Hematology, said the findings mean very little for the average person. While the increased risk may sound large, over a whole population of people it's not much at all, he told CNN.

'The absolute difference in risk is very small,' he said. 'The risk reduction may be statistically significant, but it is a small change in actual risk. You never would tell somebody who was Type O that they were at smaller risk of infection,' he said.

What the findings are more useful for would be in designing drugs or vaccines against coronavirus, researchers say.

West Lafayette
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 89°
Kokomo
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Rensselaer
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 83°
Fowler
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 83°
Williamsport
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 89°
Crawfordsville
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 86°
Frankfort
Overcast
85° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 86°
Delphi
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 85°
Monticello
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 85°
Logansport
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 84°
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 45952

Reported Deaths: 2650
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11387679
Lake4872240
Elkhart308543
Allen2677114
St. Joseph184965
Cass16369
Hamilton1484100
Hendricks136699
Johnson1235118
Porter68537
Madison64363
Tippecanoe6408
Clark62244
Bartholomew57844
Howard54356
LaPorte53925
Kosciusko4952
LaGrange4596
Jackson4553
Noble44728
Vanderburgh4306
Hancock42935
Delaware42648
Boone42242
Shelby41625
Marshall4123
Floyd36344
Morgan32031
Montgomery28720
Grant28526
Clinton2792
Dubois2606
White25810
Monroe25628
Decatur24632
Henry23515
Lawrence23124
Vigo2248
Harrison20822
Dearborn20422
Warrick20129
Greene18431
Miami1802
Jennings16911
Putnam1658
DeKalb1594
Scott1547
Daviess13916
Orange13323
Wayne1286
Franklin1248
Steuben1232
Perry1209
Ripley1127
Carroll1092
Jasper1092
Wabash1072
Fayette967
Newton9510
Whitley814
Randolph764
Starke733
Huntington702
Wells681
Jay670
Fulton661
Jefferson651
Washington641
Pulaski631
Knox620
Clay594
Rush573
Benton480
Adams451
Owen451
Gibson442
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey350
Spencer311
Tipton301
Crawford290
Fountain292
Switzerland250
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike80
Unassigned0194

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events