Polish scientists find gene that doubles risk of serious COVID

·1-min read

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish scientists have found a gene that they say more than doubles the risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19, a discovery they hope could help doctors identify people who are most at risk from the disease. 

  With vaccine hesitancy a major factor behind high coronavirus death rates in central and eastern Europe, researchers hope that identifying those at greatest risk will encourage them to get a shot and give them access to more intensive treatment options in case of an infection. 

  "After more than a year and a half of work it was possible to identify a gene responsible for a predisposition to becoming seriously ill (with coronavirus)," said Health Minister Adam Niedzielski. 

  "This means that in the future we will be able to... identify people with a predisposition to suffer seriously from COVID." 

  The researchers from the Medical University of Bialystok found that the gene was the fourth most important factor determining how seriously a person suffers from COVID-19, after age, weight and gender. 

  The gene is present in around 14% of the Polish population, compared to 8-9% in Europe as a whole and 27% in India, said Marcin Moniuszko, the professor in charge of the project. 

  Other studies have also shown the importance of genetic factors in how seriously COVID-19 develops. 

  In November, British scientists said they had identified a version of a gene that may be associated with double the risk of lung failure from COVID-19. 

  (Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Gareth Jones) 

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