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A faulty dementia gene poses a high risk of severe COVID-19
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A faulty dementia gene poses a high risk of severe COVID-19

A faulty gene already known to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s now poses the risk of severe COVID-19.

5 months since the first outbreak, COVID-19 still never fails to surprise. With the novel virus claiming over 5 million lives worldwide, experts are working tediously to understand and contain the virus. 

Recent research findings report that a faulty gene found to cause Alzheimer’s may increase the chances of a person being affected by severe COVID-19 infection. According to the research team, 1 in every 36 people carrying the gene are at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection.

What is this gene?

The gene called APOE exists in different variants one of which is termed e4e4. This particular variant puts a person at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and recently has also been linked to COVID-19. 

A research team recently collected data of 500,000 people, including 383,000 Europeans from the UK Biobank study. Around 9000 participants of European descent carried two copies of the gene e4e4. When cross-referenced with COVID-19 patients, the analysis suggested that the e4e4 homozygous genotype doubles a person’s risk of severe COVID-19 when compared to the gene e3e3. 

Is the gene an independent cause for the risk?

The above result might be the cause of dementia itself. It should be brought to light that most of the people who tested positive with the gene, already show or will show signs of cognitive issues, but not diagnosed currently. 

“I’m afraid this study does not really convince me that the e4e4 allele [gene variant] is really an independent risk factor for severe Covid-19 infection. I would want to see this tested in a sample where dementia could be more confidently excluded, perhaps a younger cohort. I am sure additional data will soon emerge to illuminate this issue.” stated David Melzer, one of the experts conducting the trial. 

It is safe to say that the e4e4 gene is not the first gene allele to be pointed as an important factor. Variants of the ACE2 gene encoding the proteins of the host cell to which the virus binds has also been previously linked with COVID-19 severity. The current results from the study can play a huge part in pinpointing the faulty genes that are vulnerable to COVID-19. This could potentially pave the way to harness new treatments. 

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