Your blood type may strongly influence your risk of severe COVID-19, new research suggests.
After screening more than 3,000 blood proteins, scientists linked six with an increased risk of severe COVID-19 and found eight that could help protect against severe disease.
One of the proteins (ABO) linked to severe illness determines blood type, suggesting that blood types (groups) play a major role in whether people develop severe forms of COVID-19, according to the authors of the study published March 3 in the journal PLOS Genetics.
“The enzyme helps determine the blood group of an individual and our study has linked it with both risk of hospitalization and the need of respiratory support or death,” said study co-author Christopher Hübel. He is a research associate at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, in the United Kingdom.
“Our study does not link precise blood group with risk of severe COVID-19, but since previous research has found that [the] proportion of people who are group A is higher in COVID-19-positive individuals, this suggests that blood group A is a more likely candidate for follow-up studies,” Hübel noted in a college news release.
The researchers also identified a causal link between three adhesion molecules and a lower risk of hospitalization and need for respiratory support. The three adhesion molecules are involved in the interaction between immune cells and blood vessels, so this new finding supports previous research suggesting that late-stage COVID-19 is also a disease involving the linings of blood vessels.
This is the first study to assess such a large number of blood proteins for their connection to COVID-19, and the findings could lead to new ways to treat and prevent severe illness, the study authors suggested.
Co-author Alish Palmos, a postdoctoral research associate at IoPPN, said the team used a purely genetic approach to establish causal links to development of severe COVID-19.
“Honing in on this group of proteins is a vital first step in discovering potentially valuable targets for development of new treatments,” Palmos said.
And co-author Gerome Breen, a professor of psychiatric genetics at IoPPN, added that the study provides a short list for the next stage of research.
“Out of thousands of blood proteins we have whittled it down to about 14 that have some form of causal connection to the risk of severe COVID-19 and present a potentially important avenue for further research to better understand the mechanisms behind COVID-19, with an ultimate aim of developing new treatments but potentially also preventative therapies,” Breen said.
For more on risk factors for severe COVID-19, go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCE: King’s College London, news release, March 3, 2022