At this point in time, it’s a well known fact that a number of pre-existing conditions, as well as age, can affect a COVID-19 infection’s level of severity but now, it is believed that blood type is one of the causal factors as well!
That’s right! According to a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics just last week, one’s blood type might play a role in how sick they become upon catching the virus.
This adds some unexpected new information about how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, works!
With that being said, the paper suggests that those with A blood type are actually more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 than those with the other blood types.
The way the researchers reached this conclusion was by screening over 3,000 blood proteins in order to find out which ones were able to cause either positive or adverse COVID outcomes.
In this context, “severity” was defined as a COVID case where the patient needed to be hospitalized, needed respiratory assistance or even ended in death.
At the very end, the team had remained with just over a dozen potential protein suspects and one of them is the one that determines one’s blood type.
Co-last author on the study Christopher Hübel from King’s College London, told New Atlas that “Our study doesn’t link precise blood group with risk of severe COVID but since previous research has aleady found that proportion of people who are blood group A is higher in COVID-positive individuals, this suggests blood group A is a more likely candidate for follow-up studies.”
Furthermore, Gerome Breen, another co-last author shared with the same news outlet that “What we’ve done in our study is to provide a shortlist for a next stage of research. Out of thousands of blood proteins we’ve whittled it down to just about 14 that have some form of connection to the risk of severe COVID infection and present a potentially important avenue for more research to better understand the mechanisms behind COVID-19 with an aim of developing new treatments but also preventative therapies.”
The authors mentioned in their papers that there were other 4 proteins directly linked to the cause of severe illness or high risk.
Similarly, they were also able to identify 3 proteins where high levels seemed to contribute to a lower risk of hospitalization as well as a lower risk of needing respiratory support or passing away from COVID-19 complications.
Furthermore, different blood proteins were also directly linked to notable improvements in patients’ health status while infected with COVID.
Some of them were actually adhesion molecules which are known to aid the immune system in interacting with blood vessels.
After this study, scientists hope that more research into how these molecules are able to protect people infected with the virus could really make a huge difference, saving many lives.
The authors write: “In summary, molecules that mediate the interaction between immune cells and blood vessels may be important in late stage COVID-19 and moderate severity.”
While this seems like a huge step forward, it’s actually not the first research piece to link blood type to COVID-19 symptoms and illness outcomes.
A rather similar correlation was also observed back in July of 2020 for the first time.
This blood connection, in addition to contributing to treating COVID-19 infections, can also provide a pathway to learning more about genes and how they affect humans’ ability to beat the virus effectively.
While talking to Salon last year, Michael N. Zietz from the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, shared that “What I found helpful was thinking, let’s just assume there are some associations between blood type and Covid, dying of Covid or contracting the disease. What mechanism potentially could underlie this? Blood type is determined by a few positions within a certain gene. It’s possible that there are some true variants that are affecting Covid susceptibility within that gene. We don’t definitively know that blood type itself is causal, but it’s an indication something about this gene’s function is causal.”