If You Don't Have This in Your Blood, You're at Risk of Severe COVID

Lacking this one thing could be the determining factor when it comes to how sick COVID will make you.

It's not just preexisting conditions that can cause your risk of developing severe COVID to skyrocket. According to a new study, a factor only detectable in your blood could be the key to determining how debilitating your COVID symptoms become. Read on to discover what could be putting you at risk for a severe case of COVID. And if you're eager for the pandemic to be behind us, COVID Will Be "Mostly Gone" By This Date, Johns Hopkins Doctor Says.

According to a Jan. 2021 study published in the journal Genetics in Medicine, individuals without a particular type of natural killer (NK) cell receptor in their blood are more likely to develop severe cases of COVID than those who have them. When the specific NKG2C receptor identified by researchers—which typically binds to the HLA-E antigen in the bloodstream to destroy cells that have become infected by viruses—is missing, a person's risk of developing severe COVID increases significantly.

The study found that approximately four percent of the population lack the NKG2C receptor entirely, while 30 percent have an NKG2C receptor that is not fully available, and, as such, may provide inadequate protection when fighting off COVID.

"Absence of the receptor was particularly prevalent in COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care units, irrespective of age or gender," Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl, MD, lead author on the study, said in a statement. "Genetic variations on the HLA-E of the infected cell were also associated with disease severity, albeit to a lesser extent."

However, that's not the only thing that may increase or decrease your likelihood of having a severe case of COVID; read on to discover which other factors could be putting you at risk. And for more insight into your risk, check out If You've Done This Recently, You're 70 Percent More Likely to Get COVID.

Neanderthal DNA

DNA Testing Kit Police Officer Secrets

A good predictor of whether or not you'll develop a serious case of COVID could have been established by your ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago. According to a study published in the March 2021 volume of PNAS, inherited Neanderthal genes affecting your 12th chromosome could slash your risk of developing severe COVID by 22 percent.

The Neanderthal genes in question are reportedly effective at triggering virus-fighting enzymes, according to the study's authors. "It seems that the enzymes encoded by the Neanderthal variant are more efficient, reducing the chance of severe consequences to SARS-CoV-2 infections," Svante Pääbo, PhD, a geneticist and co-author of the PNAS study, said in a statement. And for the latest COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Omega-3 fatty acids

omega-3 fatty acid supplements being poured into a person's hand

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids might just be your secret weapon in the fight against severe COVID. According to a Jan. 2021 pilot study conducted at the Fatty Acid Research Institute, individuals with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood were 75 percent less likely to die from COVID than those with lower levels of circulating omega-3s. And if you're worried about your risk of getting sick, If You Have This in Your Blood, It Could Be a Sign of COVID, Studies Say.

Gum disease

Man getting his teeth and gums checked out at the dentist

The clue to how bad your case of COVID will be could be in your mouth. A Feb. 2021 study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that individuals with gum disease were not only more likely to develop severe COVID symptoms than those without gum disease, but were actually nine times more likely to die due to COVID.


older man with his head in his hands

A Feb. 2021 study published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia found that dementia could significantly increase a person's risk of catching COVID. Analyzing data from 61.9 million U.S. adults, the study's researchers found that having dementia tripled a person's risk of catching COVID. Adults with dementia were also 2.6 times likelier to have a case of COVID requiring hospitalization than those without the condition, and were 4.4 percent more likely to die from COVID than the general population. And before you waste your money on a supplement that won't work, This Vitamin Won't Protect You From Severe COVID, New Study Finds.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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