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Research by genetic testing company 23andMe has found that differences in one gene, the so-called ABO gene , that influences blood type can affect susceptibility to the coronavirus .

Scientists at this genetic testing giant have been analyzing 750,000 tests (and not yet finished) the genetic factors to try to determine why some people who contract the new coronavirus do not experience symptoms, while others become seriously ill.

Preliminary results from a study started last April that sought to use the millions of profiles in its DNA database to shed light on the role of genetics in the disease, suggest that people who have type O blood are more protected against coronavirus .

According to data published by 23andMe, people with O blood type are 9% to 18% less likely to have positive results for Covid-19 than people with other blood types. These findings hold when adjusted for age, sex, body mass index, and ethnicity.

Although the study found that blood group O was only protective between positive rhesus blood types , the differences in rhesus factor (blood type + or -) were not significant in the 23andMe data . Nor was it a factor of susceptibility or severity in the cases. Furthermore, among people exposed to the virus, healthcare, and other frontline workers, 23andMe found that blood type O is similarly protective, but the proportion of cases within strata is higher.

Among respondents to the 23andMe study, the percentage reporting a positive test for Covid-19 is lower for people with O blood type . The percentage reporting a positive test for Covid-19 was highest among those with AB blood type .

Both blood type data and preliminary genetic findings also appear to support a variant in the ABO gene associated with lower risk. At least two recently published studies, one by researchers in China and the most recent by researchers in Italy and Spain , have analyzed the role of the ABO gene in Covid-19 . The China study looked at susceptibility, while the Italian and Spanish study found an association with blood type and disease severity.

That study looked at the genes of more than 1,600 patients in Italy and Spain who experienced respiratory failure and found that having type A blood was associated with a 50% increase in the probability that a patient would require a ventilator. For its part, the study in China gave similar results regarding a person's susceptibility to Covid-19 .

"There have also been some reports of links between Covid-19 , blood clotting and cardiovascular disease," says Adam Auton , principal investigator of the 23andMe study. Despite the interesting results, Auton has warned that there is still a long way to go, "even with these sample sizes, it might not be enough to find genetic associations."

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