Polish scientists have discovered a gene that they say more than doubles the risk of falling severely ill with, or even dying from COVID-19.
The Health Ministry in Warsaw expects the discovery to help identify people who are most at risk from the disease, which has already killed more than 100,000 people in Poland alone. It also plans to include genetic tests when it screens patients for potential COVID-19 infections as soon as the end of June.
The research from the Medical University of Bialystok estimates that the gene could be present in about 14% of the Polish population, compared with around 9% in Europe and 27% in India. It’s the fourth most important factor determining the severity of the illness after age, weight and gender, it said.
A genetic test “may help to better identify people who, in the event of an infection, may be at risk of an acute disease, even before the infection develops,” said Marcin Moniuszko, a professor in charge of the study, which was carried out with the participation of almost 1,500 Poles. The ministry didn’t say if the research had been peer-reviewed.
The discovery may explain one of the reasons — other than vaccination hesitancy — behind the country’s high COVID-19 death toll. The average excess mortality during the pandemic is above 20%, one of the worst results in the European Union, Eurostat data show.