Cognitive disorders linked to severe COVID-19 risk in new study

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Dementia and other cognitive disorders now appear to be risk factors for developing severe novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to new research from the University of Georgia published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

In a blind study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 1,000 diseases and two specific genes to compare the health profiles of COVID-19 patients with those testing negative, looking for commonalities in the COVID-19 patients.

The researchers relied on data from UK Biobank, a long-term study of more than 500,000 participants investigating the respective contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to the development of disease. Beginning in March, the UK Biobank started to report the COVID-19 status of its participants.

Analyzing the genetic factors that make some individuals at higher risk for severe COVID-19, the team focused on two genes: ACE2 and TPMPRSS2, known to be critical for the virus to enter into human cells. The research team also found that variations in genes related to SARS-CoV-2 infection may be associated with severe COVID-19 that requires hospitalization, according to the study.

The findings highlight the need for special care for populations with these preexisting conditions during the pandemic, the researchers said.

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