Researchers have found that there may be a ‘genetic basis’ for why people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

The latest findings add weight to previous studies that have highlighted how people with AMD are at greater risk from COVID-19. They have a 25% risk of respiratory failure and death, compared to a 21% risk for people with type 2 diabetes and a 13% risk for people with obesity.

In light of previous research, a team from Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine set out to explore the theory that AMD and COVID-19 both have common genetic risk factors.

Their study identified a link between both diseases and variants in the PDGFB gene, involving the formation of new blood vessels and abnormal blood vessel changes that take place in AMD.

Co-corresponding author Dr Lindsay A. Farrer, chief of biomedical genetics, said: “Our findings add to the body of evidence for the increased risk of infection and mortality from COVID-19 among AMD patients.

“Our analysis lends credence to previously reported clinical studies that found those with AMD have a higher risk for COVID-19 infection and severe disease, and that this increased risk may have a genetic basis.”

The team say their findings indicate that reducing PDGFB gene activity could reduce the impact of COVID-19 in people with AMD, mostly notably among older people.

They highlighted the need for a greater sample size to further test their finding of shared genetic risk factors and to further understanding about the link.

The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

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