A person’s blood type and other genetic factors may be linked with severity of coronavirus infection, according to European researchers looking for further clues about why COVID-19 hits some so much harder than others.The findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, suggest people with type A blood have a higher risk of being infected with the coronavirus and developing worse symptoms.
At the peak of the epidemic in Europe, researchers analyzed the genes of more than 4,000 people to look for variations that were common in those who became infected with the coronavirus and developed severe COVID-19.A cluster of variants in genes that are involved with immune responses was more common in people with severe COVID-19, they found. These genes are also involved with a cell-surface protein called ACE2 that the coronavirus uses to gain entry to and infect cells in the body.
COVID-19 Digital Warning System Taps Smartwatches, Rings and More
A set of so-called “digital biomarkers”—based on nearly imperceptible changes and patterns within a person’s vital sign and activity data, and signals that are more easily separated from the noise by computers than the naked eye—could be used as an early warning system for COVID-19 and its more-obvious symptoms. Several companies and institutions are pursuing the prospect. Most recently Empatica, a spinoff out of MIT’s Media Lab, inked an agreement with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, known as BARDA, to help prove its wearable sensors and algorithms could work against the coronavirus pandemic.
Empatica previously picked up an FDA clearance for its seizure-detecting smartwatch, Embrace, designed to alert family members and caregivers if it senses physical convulsions. Now its medical-grade Aura smartwatch-based system will be tested in the real world, worn by frontline healthcare workers for 30 days and matched up with daily COVID-19 swab tests. The goal is to spot the earliest possible signs that the virus is active and multiplying, with the potential to be spread to others before a person shows respiratory symptoms.