"Today we have a special moment, a special day - an important day for the whole of Polish science, but above all a very important day for the healthcare system, for the health of Poles," Adam Niedzielski told a press conference. "We have managed to identify.... a very important risk factor, when it comes to Covid infection, it is a risk element related to the genetic structure.... This factor is a concrete gene."
The researchers uncovered a gene variant which predisposes patients to twice the risk of being seriously affected by Covid-19, and death.
The scientists said the gene was in fourth place in determining whether patients suffered serious symptoms from Covid-19. The other major factors are advanced age, obesity and male gender.
The study investigated 1,500 people infected with the disease nationwide and identified a gene variant possessed by 14 percent of Poles, which is about 5 percent more than in other European countries.
"We show that genes are a very important factor, which can decide how we see each disease, including Covid-19, but I would like to put it in the appropriate hierarchy," Professor Marcin Moniuszko, who headed the research project, told a local radio station. "We have not shown that genes are the most important (factor), it's never that simple. They are significant, they are in fourth place."
Prof. Moniuszko added that similar research had been conducted globally and that differences had been shown between populations, with ethnic issues also being important.
He said the research would enable a fairly simple test to be developed that would identify patients at high risk of serious coronavirus infection. He said such a test might encourage those people to get vaccinated if they have not done so already. (PAP)