In Brief

Research reveals link between dementia gene and ‘severe Covid-19’

Dementia patients ‘twice as likely’ to suffer severe coronavirus symptoms

People who are genetically predisposed to dementia have a higher risk of severe coronavirus symptoms, researchers have revealed.

The study, published in Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, says Europeans with two faulty copies of a gene known as APOE e4, a variant that makes dementia more likely, are more than twice as likely to develop severe coronavirus.

“It is not just age: this is an example of a specific gene variant causing vulnerability in some people,” David Melzer, a professor of epidemiology and public health at Exeter University and a co-author of the study, told The Guardian.

Limits to the study mean that while the link between dementia and coronavirus is likely, it has not yet been definitively proved, professor Tara Spires-Jones, deputy director at the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, told The Times.

“The scientists did a thorough job of trying to control for other things associated with ApoE4 that could account for the risk, but it is still possible that there is an unknown related factor causing the increased risk.”

However, Spires-Jones added, understanding that faulty ApoE in the immune system increases the severity of the disease is something researchers “may be able to harness... to develop effective treatments”.

Official statistics show that dementia is the leading underlying condition for Covid-19 deaths and is present in a fifth of people who die with the virus, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

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