23andMe, a genetic research giant famous for its home DNA testing kits, has released the preliminary results of their ongoing genetic research on Covid-19. The researchers have suggested that the patient’s blood type has a significant role in deciding vulnerability towards Covid-19 infection. The study is based on 750,000 participants, including 10,000 volunteers who had been tested positive for the infection.
The initial findings of 23andMe research
- The initial results suggest that the blood type O appears protective against the virus compared to other blood types.
- Individuals with the O blood type are 9 to 18 per cent less likely to test positive for Covid-19 compared to other blood types.
- When the researchers adjusted the results for ethnicity, age, BMI, and other existing health problems, the findings do not show any significant change.
- The researchers narrowed down the results to healthcare and other frontline workers and found similar results. The findings suggested that even healthcare and frontline workers with O blood type are less likely to catch an infection or get severely ill.
- The Rhesus factor i.e., blood type +ve or –ve do not have a significant role. Although an initial study suggested that blood type O is only protective of rhesus-positive blood types, further studies did not support the result.
Results supported by similar studies
On 2nd June, a pre-review form of similar research was published on MedRxiv. Doctors from Germany, Norway, Italy and Spain collaborated for the research. They collected blood samples from 1,610 patients who needed oxygen or had to be put on ventilators. Also, 2,205 COVID-negative patients donated blood samples for the research. They found that patients with blood type A are 50 percent more likely to need oxygen or ventilator.
On the other hand, patients with blood type O have a lower risk of catching the infection. Results from both researches complement each other. However, the researchers are not sure how blood type is playing its role in deciding the severity of the infection. A team at the University of Kiel in Germany extracted DNA from the submitted samples. Though they found spots that can be associated with severe Covid-19 cases, it is still unclear which gene on the locus on Chromosome 3 influences the progress of the disease. It will take some time to zero down to the specific gene that affects the disease.
Scientists worldwide are working together and sharing data to understand how Covid-19 spreads and affects the patients. The ongoing research will help in developing treatment and vaccine for the infection. 23andMe has invited more volunteers from the US to donate samples for their research.