Polish scientists say they have found a gene that greatly increases the risk of becoming severely sick with COVID-19.
The discovery could help doctors identify people who are most at risk from the disease.
Researchers from the Medical University of Bialystok carried out the study which was supported by the Medical Research Agency. It involved about 1,500 COVID-19 patients.
The researchers found that the gene was one of the most important factors affecting how seriously a person suffers from COVID-19. Old age and overweight were others. They said it increased the risk of severe COVID-19 sickness by more than two times.
Professor Marcin Moniuszko led the project. He said the gene is present in around 14 percent of the Polish population, compared to about nine percent in Europe as a whole.
Poland’s health minister also spoke at the press conference announcing the findings on January 13.
"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 Health Minister Adam Niedzielski.
Dr. Radoslaw Sierpinski is president of the Medical Research Agency which paid for the research. He said it is important to use a test that will quickly show whether people have a genetic predisposition to severe COVID-19 infections.
Observers blame high coronavirus death rates in Central and Eastern Europe on low vaccinations rates. The researchers hope that identifying those at greatest risk will persuade more people to get vaccinated. They also want more intensive treatment methods to be available in case of an infection.
Other studies have also shown the importance of genetic factors in how seriously COVID-19 develops.
In November, British scientists said they had identified a version of a gene that may be associated with double the risk of lung failure from COVID-19.
That study identified a gene which, the researchers said, increased by two times the risk of death in COVID-19 patients under 60 years of age. Researchers at Oxford University said that around 60 percent of people with South Asian ancestry carry the high-risk gene.
I’m Mario Ritter Jr.
Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this Reuters story for VOA Learning English with additional materials.
Words in This Story
factor –n. something that helps produce or influence a result; one of the things that cause something to happen
predisposition –n. being more likely to be affected in a certain way by a condition than others
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