In a new study from King’s College London, researchers analyzed over 3000 proteins to identify which are causally linked to the development of severe COVID-19.
They identified six proteins that could underlie an increased risk of severe COVID-19 and eight that could contribute to protection from severe COVID-19.
One of the proteins (ABO) that was identified as having a causal connection to the risk of developing severe COVID-19 determines blood groups.
This suggests that blood groups play an instrumental role in whether people develop severe forms of the disease.
Assessing how blood proteins are linked to disease can help understand the underlying mechanisms and identify potential new targets for developing or repurposing drugs.
Protein levels can be measured directly from blood samples but conducting this type of research for large numbers of proteins is costly and cannot establish causal direction.
The study considered two incremental levels of severity of COVID-19: hospitalization and respiratory support or death.
Using data from a number of genome-wide association studies, the researchers found six proteins that were causally linked to an increased risk of hospitalization or respiratory support/death due to COVID-19 and eight causally linked to protection against hospitalization or respiratory support/death.
Analysis showed some distinction in types of proteins linked to hospitalization and those linked to respiratory support/death, indicating different mechanisms may be at work in these two stages of the disease.
The analysis identified that an enzyme (ABO) that determines blood group was causally associated with both an increased risk of hospitalization and a requirement for respiratory support.
This supports previous findings around the association of blood groups with a higher likelihood of death.
Taken together with previous research showing that the proportion of group A is higher in COVID-19 positive individuals, this suggests blood group A is a candidate for follow-up studies.
The research has highlighted a number of possible targets for drugs that could be used to help treat severe COVID-19.
For more information about Covid, please see recent studies about why some people are less naturally resistant to COVID-19, and results showing this drug combo may help cure COVID-19.
The study is published in PLOS Genetics and was conducted by Dr. Alish Palmos et al.
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