Have a “defective” gene related to dementia doubles the risk of developing severe COVID-19, according to a large-scale study by researchers from the Exeter University (United Kingdom) and the University of Connecticut (United States).
Specifically, scientists found a high risk of severe coronavirus infection among those of European descent who carried two defective copies of the APOE gene (named e4e4).
One in 36 people of European descent has two defective copies of this gene, and this is known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 14 times, explain the scientists in a statement from the University of Exeter, in which they point out that it also increases the risk of heart disease.
Now, the research team has discovered that being a carrier of these genetic mutations doubles the risks of COVID-19, even in people who have not developed the aforementioned diseases; the results are published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Science.
Like other scientists, this research team had already found that people with dementia are more likely to get severe coronavirus and, among the explanations, could be exposure to the high prevalence of coronavirus in nursing homes or care centers.
However, this new work identifies that a genetic component may also be at stake.
The team specifically found that people with the APOE e4e4 genotype had twice the risk of developing severe covid-19., compared to those with the common e3e3 form of the APOE gene.
The researchers used data from the UK Biobank study, which collects health and genetic information from 500,000 people.
Chia-Ling Kuo, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, summarizes that this is an “exciting result because we may now be able to pinpoint how this faulty gene causes vulnerability to covid-19.”
“This could lead to new ideas for treatments.”Kuo points out, who points out that it is also important because it shows, once again, that the increased risks of disease that seem inevitable with aging could actually be due to specific biological differences.
One in 36 people of European descent has two defective copies of this gene, and this is known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 14 times
This, he argues, could help us understand why some people remain active until age 100 or older, while others suffer disabilities and die at age 60.
For his part, David Melzer, who led the team, recalls that several studies have shown that people with dementia are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 And this research suggests that this high risk may not simply be due to the effects of dementia, advancing age, frailty, or exposure to the virus in nursing homes.
“The effect could be due in part to this underlying genetic change, which puts them at risk for both COVID-19 and dementia,” he emphasizes.