[On June 18, 2020, NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, posted his Director’s Blog on the topic of blood type and risk of severe COVID-19. This report reproduces Dr. Collins’ blog (https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/06/18/genes-blood-type-tied-to-covid-19-risk-of-severe-disease/), with a small number of minor editorial changes. Dr. Collins blog is titled “Genes, Blood Type Tied to Risk of Severe COVID-19.” This blog follows below.] Many people who contract COVID-19 have only a mild illness, or sometimes no symptoms at all. But others develop respiratory failure that requires oxygen support or even a ventilator to help them recover. It’s clear that this happens more often in men than in women, as well as in people who are older or who have chronic health conditions. But why does respiratory failure also sometimes occur in people who are young and seemingly healthy? A new study suggests that part of the answer to this question may be found in the genes that each one of us carries. While more research is needed to pinpoint the precise underlying genes and mechanisms responsible, a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS), published online on June 17, 2020 in the New England Journal of Medicine (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2020283), finds that gene variants in two regions of the human genome are associated with severe COVID-19 and correspondingly carry a greater risk of COVID-19-related death. The two stretches of DNA implicated as harboring risks for severe COVID-19 are known to carry some intriguing genes, including one that determines blood type and others that play various roles in the immune system.
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