COVID-19 News and Updates: June 2020 – #4

People With O Blood Type Appear to Have a Lower Risk of Catching Coronavirus, Preliminary Study Says

Kashmira Gander

June 10, 2020 (Newsweek) – Having the O blood type may reduce a person’s chances of catching the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to preliminary research by biotechnology company 23andMe.

Early data from over 750,000 people taking part in an ongoing study suggests that those with the O blood type are between 9 to 18 percent less likely to test positive for the coronavirus than others. In individuals who had likely been exposed to the virus, such as healthcare and essential workers and those with known contact with cases, those with the O blood group were 13 to 26 percent less likely to test positive. The team didn’t find a significant difference in how susceptible those with other blood types were. Those with type O were also less likely to be hospitalized.

It is not clear if the results have been peer-reviewed or are due to be published in a scientific journal. Newsweek has contacted 23andMe.

Participants of the ongoing study, which launched in April, answered survey questions about whether they have had cold or flu-like symptoms, and whether they had been diagnosed with, received treatment for, or had been hospitalized with COVID-19. They also shared their genetic information using 23andMe kits.

o arrive at their findings, the team compared the data from participants who reported having COVID-19 and those who didn’t. They found the ABO gene, which encodes for different bloody types, was linked with a lower risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

A total of 1.3 percent of O blood type participants tested positive for COVID-19, versus 1.4 percent for A, and 1.5 percent for both B and AB. When the researchers honed in on the participants most likely to be exposed to the virus, they again found those with O blood type were the least likely to report testing positive for COVID-19, at 3.2 percent. This was followed by 3.9 percent for A, 4 percent for B, and 4.1 percent for AB.

A press release by the company acknowledged the study is in its “very early” stages.

Adam Auton, lead researcher on the 23andMe study, told Bloomberg: “There have also been some reports of links between Covid-19, blood clotting, and cardiovascular disease. These reports provided some hints about which genes might be relevant.”

Auton said: “It’s early days; even with these sample sizes, it might not be enough to find genetic associations.

“We’re not the only group looking at this, and ultimately the scientific community may need to pool their resources to really address questions surrounding the links between genetics and Covid-19.”

In March, for instance, scientists in China similarly concluded those with the blood type O “had a significantly lower risk” for getting COVID-19. Those findings were released on the pre-print site medRxiv, a website where health researchers can put studies before they have gone through the rigorous peer-review process required by scientific journals.

Sakthivel Vaiyapuri, associate professor in cardiovascular and venom pharmacology at the U.K.’s University of Reading who did not work on the study, told Newsweek the new work was limited because the team didn’t consider several other factors that can make someone susceptible to COVID-19.

“For example, people with previous respiratory or inflammatory diseases are highly likely to contract the infection,” he said. “Similarly, the researchers need to consider several other factors to understand why O blood group is not providing 100 percent protection against the infection.”

Vaiyapuri said: “I would strongly advise everyone to be extremely cautious [of the coronavirus] regardless of their blood types. All these preliminary evidences suggest that there might be a link between blood types and COVID-19 infection. However, none of these results conclude that O blood group people are 100 percent protective against the infection, and A blood group people are 100 percent susceptible to infection. So everyone should follow the guidelines from the health authorities and be cautious to prevent the infection.”

Dr. Laura Cooling, professor in the department of pathology at the University of Michigan who also did not work on the study, told Newsweek it was limited because the team relied on the participants accurately reporting information including their blood type, COVID-19 infection, and exposure to the coronavirus.

Cooling said: “All of us need to be vigilant. Our baseline health risks and behaviors play a much large role in our risks [than blood type].”

This article has been updated with comment from Sakthivel Vaiyapuri and Laura Cooling.