Higher risk of COVID-19 among people with cognitive disorders: Study

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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People with dementia and other cognitive disorders are on the higher risk side of developing severe COVID-19, research from the University of Georgia in the US shows.

The findings from the blind study published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, underlines that people with these pre-existing health conditions require special care during the pandemic.

The researchers have evaluated data from around 1,000 diseases and two specific genes to compare the health condition of COVID-19 positive people with those tested negative for it, to find out the similarities in the coronavirus patients.

The research was conducted by relying on data from UK Biobank, a long-term study of more than 500,000 participants studying the respective contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to the development of the disease.

From the beginning of March, the UK Biobank has started to report the COVID-19 status of its participants. The team of researchers in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of genetics’, led by assistant professor Kaixiong Ye and Jingqi Zhou, compared the coronavirus status to the electronic health data.

Kaixiong Ye
Kaixiong Ye
Assistant Professor
University of Georgia

“We took a hypothesis-free approach and the most statistically significant ones are the cognitive disorders and Type 2 diabetes. Right now, we do not know the mechanisms behind these associations, we only know these are more common in COVID-19 patients.”

The research team focused on two genes ACE2 and TMPRSS2, which are said to be riskier for the virus to enter into, to study the genetic factors that make individuals at higher risk for severe COVID-19.

“In the TMPRSS2 gene we found that a specific genetic variation is more common in the COVID-19 patient,” he said.

The study has also found some variations in genes linked to the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is associated with severe COVID-19 cases that needs hospitalization.