Study suggests that Alzheimer's and COVID-19 share genetic risk factor

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Oct 08, 2021, 08:05 PM IST

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This research could potentially make way for new targets for drug development and tracking disease progression of both Alzheimer's and COVID-19 

In a recent study, University College London researchers have identified a gene that affects both Alzheimer's disease and severe COVID-19 risk.

Researchers estimate that one genetic variant of the gene OAS1, increases Alzheimer's disease risk by roughly 3-6 per cent in the general population, whereas related variations on the same gene increase the chances of severe COVID-19 outcomes.

Research published in Brain could potentially make way for new targets for drug development and tracking disease progression of the diseases. Additionally, this study highlights the possibility that treatments developed can be used to treat both conditions.

Furthermore, the findings may have benefits for other conditions that are related to infectious diseases and dementias.

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Lead author Dr Dervis Salih (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL) said: "While Alzheimer's is primarily characterised by the harmful build-up of amyloid protein and tangles in the brain, there is also extensive inflammation in the brain that highlights the importance of the immune system in Alzheimer's. We have found that some of the same immune system changes can occur in both Alzheimer's disease and COVID-19.

"In patients with severe COVID-19 infection, there can also be inflammatory changes in the brain. Here we have identified a gene that can contribute to an exaggerated immune response to increase risks of both Alzheimer's and COVID-19."

According to the findings, people that carry the newly identified OAS1 gene variant called 'rs1131454', were more likely to have Alzheimer's disease, increasing carriers' baseline risk of Alzheimer's by an estimated 11-22 per cent. 

The new variant identified by researchers is common, as it affects more than half of all Europeans, and it is more predictive of Alzheimer's risk than several known risk genes.

(With inputs from agencies)