Blood Type Plays a Role in Coronavirus: Study

NBC Universal, Inc.

Why does the coronavirus affect some people and spare others? A new study says it may have something to do with your blood type.

Genetic testing company 23andMe conducted a study in early April that appears to find a connection.

NBC 6 anchor Sheli Muñiz talked to Dr. Anjali Shastri, a researcher with 23andMe who is based in California.

DR. SHASTRI: On April 6, 23andMe launched a genetic study on COVID-19, and we reached out to our customers, and we really had a tremendous response. 800,000 individuals responded to the COVID-19 survey, out of which 12,000 were either diagnosed with or treated for COVID-19. So, we started analyzing the data and our preliminary results indicate that individuals with the blood type O are less susceptible to COVID-19. So, the blood type O is protective. Now, the effect isn't huge, so when you look at the numbers of the individuals who are of blood type O, (they) are 9 to 18% less likely to test positive.

SHELI: What about the other blood types?

DR. SHASTRI: We’re not seeing that same level of protection in any of the other blood types in A, B, or AB.

SHELI: Does it speak to how a patient fares about contracting the coronavirus?

DR. SHASTRI: Our preliminary data shows that O is protective not just for susceptibility but also how severe the disease is.

SHELI: New research by MIT suggests race plays a bigger role in COVID-19 deaths than pre-existing health conditions, did you find other factors like race, sex, age?

DR. SHASTRI: Yea, so we controlled for all of those, and we found that the O type is protective once you control for all of those conditions.

SHELI: What do you do with these findings? What can the company now use this for in the future?

DR. SHASTRI: So, as soon as this study is completed, we can make this information publicly available so scientists around the world can use the data to further their studies. You know, ultimately the goal is to develop treatments for COVID-19, so if we can try to understand what’s the biological mechanism, why is someone with blood type O protected, we can use that to develop treatments for the disease.

It’s important to note that the results are preliminary as the study does continue, however, several other studies have shown similar results.

Learn more about the study here.

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