OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s been widely known throughout the pandemic that pre-existing conditions can impact your susceptibility to a severe case of COVID-19, but could your genetics have something to do with it as well?
That’s been the focus of a worldwide study – with local researchers observing as well to find what it means for Oklahomans.
They’re concerned, considering the health risks already faced by our state’s residents.
“I’m not very pessimistic, but I’m very concerned for our communities,” said Dr. Dharambir Sanghera, a Professor of Pediatric Genetics at the OU College of Medicine.
There, she focuses on genetic ties to diabetes and has been closely following research on genetics and COVID-19.
According to a large international study published in the journal ‘Nature’ – 13 genes are tied to your susceptibility to contracting COVID-19 or how severe your battle with the disease will be.
The emerging data is concerning for Oklahomans.
According to the CDC, Oklahoma has the highest heart disease death rate in the nation.
We’re near the top for chronic disease deaths, as well as cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The genetics tied to predisposition to these diseases are also appearing to be tied to COVID-19.
“So we have a very susceptible population not only because of our genes but our lifestyle and the way our communities are,” Sanghera said.
We all know by now that smoking and obesity are pre-existing conditions that often worsen COVID-19, but the study shows even just having a genetic predisposition toward them can also play a role.
Could it explain why some seemingly healthy people have had severe cases or died?
Sanghera says – absolutely.
As more and more new research is underway and develops, she says the biggest key right now is to get vaccinated.
“Science is leading us and knowledge is a weapon,” said Sanghera.
This is just the beginning of this research as COVID is a relatively new disease.