"Dementia Gene" Increases Risk Of Severe Course Of COVID-19 - Scientists' Findings

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"Dementia Gene" Increases Risk Of Severe Course Of COVID-19 - Scientists' Findings
"Dementia Gene" Increases Risk Of Severe Course Of COVID-19 - Scientists' Findings

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"Dementia gene" increases risk of severe course of COVID-19 - scientists' findings

A new study by a group of scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom suggests that people with dementia are vulnerable to coronavirus not only due to age and memory problems.

"Dementia gene" increases risk of severe course of COVID-19 - scientists' findings
"Dementia gene" increases risk of severe course of COVID-19 - scientists' findings

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In an article published in the Journal of Gerontology, the researchers highlight that the majority of elderly patients who have died from coronavirus in England and Wales suffered from dementia. This made scientists think that it is not only social factors, but also genetic mutations.

They analyzed information from the British Biobank, which collected medical and genetic data from 500,000 volunteers between the ages of 48 and 86. The team focused on the ApoE gene, which encodes a protein called apolipoprotein E, which plays an important role in lipid metabolism. One of its e4 variants is known to affect cholesterol levels and processes associated with inflammation, and also increase the risk of heart disease and dementia.

The researchers found that of the 383,000 participants in the Biobank of European descent, 9,022 had two copies of the "e4" variant, while over 223,000 had two copies of the "e3" variant. Scientists noted that the first group had a 14 times higher risk of developing dementia than the second.

The group then looked at positive COVID-19 tests from March 16 to April 26, when coronavirus testing was conducted primarily in hospitals. It turned out that 37 people with a confirmed diagnosis had two copies of the "e4" ApoE variant, while 401 patients had two copies of the "e3" variant. Taking into account various factors, including the age and gender of the patients, the researchers stated that people with two "e4" options had twice the risk of severe COVID-19 than patients with two "e3" options.

This link was confirmed even after the team excluded participants with confirmed dementia from the study, according to study co-author David Melzer, professor of epidemiology and public health at Exeter University.

Professor Tara Spiers-Jones, an expert on neurodegeneration at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, noted a strong link between genetic variants of ApoE and the risk of severe COVID-19. But, she said, despite the importance of this discovery, the study does not yet prove that it was genetic mutations that caused complications in coronavirus.

“It is possible that the role of ApoE plays a large role in the functioning of the immune system in disease, and future research may use this data to develop effective treatments,” said the professor.

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influence at the Alzheimer's Society, said Brits with dementia and their loved ones were in despair when, at the peak of the epidemic, these people began to get sick and die in massive amounts. Scientists should continue their research and the authorities should take urgent measures to protect this vulnerable group of patients, she said.

“It is important to understand why people with dementia are at higher risk and to what extent different factors, such as genetics or ethnicity, are involved,” Carragher said.

In mid-April, an international team of experts led by the Dementia Care and Research Center at Peking University Institute of Mental Health warned of a "double whammy" pandemic for elderly patients with this diagnosis. According to experts, these people are especially vulnerable now, because they not only fall into a risk group due to age, but also have problems remembering safety rules and the need to stay at home.

Scientists also noted that older people in many countries live alone, with a spouse, or in a nursing home. Many companies that provide various services to seniors are now unable to work. As a result, dementia patients who need the services of home helpers find themselves alone and feeling abandoned. In addition, many countries are now banning visits to nursing homes, which leaves the elderly suffering from social isolation and the staff under great stress.

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