There is still a lot of investigation work to be done into understanding how the COVID-19 virus works. Preliminary data compiled by private genetic testing company 23andME shows that individuals with Type-O blood may fare better in resisting and fending off the novel coronavirus.
The validity of the hypothesis is yet to be proven, but the US-based company believes that those who have Type-O blood may be slightly more protected against contracting the virus, and if contracted, may display milder symptoms than those of other blood types.
The data was gathered from an ongoing genetic study that explores whether the ABO blood group plays a different role in infections by serving as a receptor, or co-receptor for microorganisms, viruses, and parasites.
The study has 750 000 participants thus far, and many of these are largely made up of existing customers in their database. Individuals in the ABO blood group seem to 9%-18% less likely to test positive for COVID-19. Those with Type-O blood to be 13 to 26% less likely to contract the virus.
The data also takes into account other important individual factors such as age, sex, co-morbidities, and ethnicity.
“While it is still very early in the study, 23andMe’s preliminary investigation into genetics seems to support these findings. Comparing the research participants who reported that they tested positive for COVID-19 to those who tested negative, our researchers identified a variant in the ABO gene associated with a lower risk,” 23andME said in a statement.
“Both the data on blood type and the preliminary genetic findings also appear to support at least two recently published pre-print studies — one by researchers in China and the most recent one by researchers in Italy and Spain — that look at the ABO gene’s role in COVID-19. The study in China looked at susceptibility, while the Italian and Spanish study found an association with blood type and severity of the illness.”
To better understand the risk of acquiring the infection, 23andME restricted the data to those with a high probability of exposure. This included professional health care workers, those with close contact with known cases, and essential workers.
As shown below, blood type O shows a similar pattern as seen above, but the proportion of cases within strata is higher.
23andMe launched its COVID-19 study on April 6, inviting customers to participate in the large-scale study looking at whether genetics could help explain the differences in severity among patients.
In early May, the study was expanded to those outside of 23andMe who have experienced severe COVID-19 symptoms. The expanded study, in which 23andMe is providing 10 000 kits free of charge, aims to identify individuals who tested positive and were hospitalised for COVID-19.
As part of the research, participants answer survey questions about whether they’ve experienced cold or flu-like symptoms, whether they’ve been diagnosed or treated for COVID-19, and whether they’ve been hospitalised for the illness.
“The study and recruitment are ongoing, with the hope that we can use our research platform to better understand differences in how people respond to the virus. Ultimately, we hope to publish our research findings in order to provide more insight into COVID-19 for the scientific community,” the company said.