Alzheimer’s risk gene link to COVID-19 risk

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By Ed Pinches | Tuesday 26 May 2020

Scientists at the University of Exeter have found a link between a key Alzheimer’s risk gene and severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“A previous study from this group of researchers found that dementia was the diagnosis associated with the greatest risk of severe COVID-19 in a group of participants over the age of 65.

“One explanation for people with dementia being more vulnerable to COVID-19 could be high rates of infection in care homes, but this research highlights a potential biological link.

“The study found that people with a key genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease appear to be more likely to test positive for COVID-19, even if they don’t have dementia.

“We don’t yet know how this Alzheimer’s risk gene might make people more susceptible to the virus. Despite the large study group, only 37 people with the risk gene tested positive for COVID-19, and we must be careful about the conclusions we draw from such small numbers.

“These findings will need to be followed up with further research to see if this link could present avenues for new treatments.

“This study analysed data from participants with European ancestry so the findings may not be relevant to other groups and it is important for other studies to look into COVID-19 risk for people with a different genetic background.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is having a particularly strong impact on many people with dementia and their families. It is essential that people with dementia have the support they need to minimise their risk of being exposed to the virus.”

Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences: APOE E4 genotype predicts severe COVID-19 in the UK Biobank community cohort

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Ed Pinches