Genomic Medicine and COVID-19
The Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19 for short, is here to stay for a while. And the devastating impact is only just starting.
According to the CDC, 2,213,005 people have been infected, and 119,204 people have died so far making the U.S. the largest “hotspot” in the world.
Why COVID-19 Mortality Will Continue to Increase
- Only 5 % of population exposed to virus – and we need 70-80% for “herd” immunity
- High rates of chronic health conditions in United States – with minority and lower-income groups disproportionately affected
- Lack of access to medical care in underserved populations
- Unemployment and lack of employer-based medical insurance
What about a vaccine? Based on current scientific research, don’t hold your breath. We now know that the original COVID-19 virus that started in China is different than the one that is prevalent in Europe and the U.S.
The virus is developing SNPs! And the SNPs seem to be increasing the ability of the virus to infect, replicate and get transmitted. This means that any vaccine must be able to protect against more than one strain.
All is not Equal
In a reflection of all that is unequal in the U.S. – including economics, health and health care access – the virus is attacking various populations differently.
And our genes may also be playing a role. Because the virus uses ACE2 as its starting point, and then induces a host immune response that involves multiple genes including NFKB and Nrf2, studies are starting to explore how SNPs in these genes may predispose people to infection, hospitalization and even death.
Even if you don’t know your specific genes and gene SNPs, your blood type may hold a clue as well. Blood type is encoded by genes that are closely linked to the immune system through the MHC (major histocompatibility complex). These genes determine whether you are Blood Type O, A, B, or AB.
Several studies now have shown that blood type plays a role in susceptibility, with Blood Type O being the most protective. The newest study shows that people with Blood Type O are 35% less likely to develop respiratory failure, while people with Blood Type A are almost 50% MORE likely.
Because ethnicity plays a major role in the frequency of specific blood type genes, this may in part explain some of the ethnic disparities.
Not Just the Elderly
While many of the headlines focus on large numbers of deaths of the elderly, we know that it strikes people of all ages. People between ages 30 and 60 actually make up the majority of confirmed cases so far.
People between ages 20 and 40 who have an underlying chronic disease and contract COVID-19 have a 6X greater risk of being hospitalized.
And beyond the health implications, hospitalization isn’t cheap – even if you have insurance. Reports are now starting to crop up of people receiving hospital bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars – and more.
What is the solution? Addressing the underlying causes of chronic disease NOW.
Creating a New Health Paradigm
While we can’t change our age, there is one big risk factor that we CAN change: the existence of chronic disease.
The majority of people who develop severe disease or die have two things in common: they already have an underlying chronic disease, and their immune response goes haywire – creating a “cytokine storm”.
What are these chronic diseases that are associated with severe infections and increased risk of death? Most are what we call “lifestyle” diseases – that is, they are almost entirely preventable and treatable through appropriate dietary and lifestyle strategies.
The top two are heart disease (including hypertension and metabolic syndrome) and diabetes – accounting for more than 62% of hospitalizations for severe disease and deaths.
Next is chronic lung disease- including emphysema, COPD and asthma at 18%. Obesity, liver and kidney disease, immunocompromised conditions and intellectual disabilities round out the bottom 20%.
While several studies are underway to try to develop effective treatments, one of the most promising is the use of a strong steroid, dexamethasone, that suppresses this overreaction of the immune system.
But what if we already have the knowledge and tools to intervene much earlier – and possibly prevent this from happening in the first place?
Genomic Medicine provides the roadmap for health
In our COVID-19 webinar in March, we shared information on how the virus infects a person, what symptoms develop and when. We also shared how the COVID-19 virus hijacks each person’s systems to infect and wreak havoc with their biochemistry and immune systems.
Clinicians who have taken or are taking our Genomic Medicine Certification Course are also able to apply their knowledge of the genes and systems involved to help their patients in staying healthy by tailoring personalized prevention strategies for their patients to reduce risk of infection. AND they can create early intervention strategies to reduce the risk of an immune overreaction that is creating so much of the severe disease, long-term consequences and death.
But perhaps the most powerful tool they have is the ability to address the chronic health issues at their core – improving a person’s health for the long-term while also reducing their risk for severe COVID-19.
Heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, immune-related disease, lung disease … and don’t forget the impact of stress on our health. Genomic Medicine is effective at preventing and treating all of these and more.
For clinicians who are currently enrolled in or have completed our certification course, our Monthly Group Coaching and Mastermind Programs keep them up to date on Genomic Medicine science and clinical solutions.
If you are new to genomics and would like to learn more about how it all works, a good place to start is with our introductory and intermediate courses.
To get your own personalized roadmap for health, contact us for more information on how to get started.