From the beginning of the pandemic, one thing about COVID that mystified and frustrated doctors was its unpredictability—in some people, it caused no symptoms; in others, it landed them in the hospital struggling to breathe. Although risk factors for severe COVID have been identified—including age, obesity and underlying medical conditions—the disease has been observed to affect people with no risk factors differently. In a new study, Polish researchers say they may have uncovered a reason why. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What the Study Involved
Researchers from the Medical University of Bialystok in Poland said that they had identified a gene that more than doubles a person's risk of developing severe COVID.
The scientists found that the gene was the fourth most important factor in determining whether someone will develop a serious case of COVID, following age, weight and gender.
How Many People Have This Gene
The study, which involved 1,500 people infected with coronavirus in Poland, identified a genetic variant that is present in 14 percent of people in that country, 9 percent of people in Europe overall, and 27 percent of India, said Marcin Moniuszko, one of the scientists responsible for the discovery.
What This Means
"After more than a year and a half of work it was possible to identify a gene responsible for a predisposition to becoming seriously ill (with coronavirus)," said Adam Niedzielski, Poland's health minister. "This means that in the future we will be able to… identify people with a predisposition to suffer seriously from COVID."
Moniuszko said the discovery could lead to a simple test which can be administered to determine if someone is at high risk of a poor COVID outcome. That could help encourage people to get vaccinated and determine who should get priority access to treatments.
Other Studies Have Had Similar Findings
In November, British scientists said they had identified a gene that seems to be associated with a doubled risk of lung failure from COVID-19. That gene, LZTFL1, is present in 60% of people of South Asian ancestry, 15% of people of European ancestry and 2.4% of people with African ancestry.
Last July, a global research team led by scientists with the Broad Institute and the University of Helsinki said they had identified 13 genetic signatures that are closely linked to an increased risk for developing severe COVID-19.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.