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Cognitive disorders linked to severe COVID-19 risk

Friday, October 30, 2020 - 4:11pm
By:
Alan Flurry

Dementia and other cognitive disorders now appear to be risk factorsfor developing severe COVID-19, according to research from the University of Georgia. The findings highlight the need for special care for populations with these preexisting conditions during the pandemic.

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 study, published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 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.

Connecting to the data

Beginning in March, the UK Biobank started to report the COVID-19 status of its participants. The team in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of genetics, led by assistant professor Kaixiong Ye and his postdoc, Jingqi Zhou, promptly connected the COVID-19 status to the electronic health data.

“We took a hypothesis-free approach and the most statistically significant ones are the cognitive disorders and Type 2 diabetes,” said Ye, the senior author on the study. “Right now, we don’t know the mechanisms behind these associations, we only know these are more common in COVID-19 patients.”

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