Hailing the discovery as a breakthrough, the Medical University of Białystok said in a statement on Tuesday that the genetic variant in question “more than doubles the risk of having a severe COVID-19 and of dying from COVID-19,” the state PAP news agency reported.
“Up to 14 percent of Poland's population may possess this variant, although the estimate for the European population as a whole is 9 percent,” the university added.
The research showed that “in addition to advanced age and obesity, it is our genetic profile which is a risk factor for having a severe form of COVID-19, even more so than the so-called pre-existing medical conditions,” according to the statement.
The Białystok scientists arrived at their conclusions after examining 1,500 COVID-19 patients, the PAP news agency reported.
The project was co-financed by the government and conducted in collaboration with about a dozen medical institutions in Poland as well as a technology firm called Imagene.Me.
Prof. Marcin Moniuszko, who led the research, voiced hope that the discovery “will lead to the development of a test to identify people at a higher risk of severe COVID-19, a test that will be widely available to patients, doctors and diagnosticians."
He said: “Those at higher risk could then receive special care in advance."
His team's findings are set to be presented at a news conference attended by Poland’s Health Minister Adam Niedzielski in Białystok on Thursday, PAP reported.
Poland's total number of coronavirus-related deaths surpassed 100,000 on Tuesday, public health authorities said, as the country battles a fourth wave of the pandemic and braces for a peak in COVID-19 omicron cases later this month.
Poland on Tuesday reported 11,406 new coronavirus infections and 493 more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the country's total number of cases during the pandemic to 4,232,386 and fatalities to 100,254.