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COVID-19: New risk factors that may increase your susceptibility to the disease identified

Antimicrobial use during hospitalization suspected to be the cause of bloodstream infections in COVID-19 patients.

Scientists seeking to find answers as to why some people suffer severe complications and even death from COVID-19 have come up with additional factors that increase susceptibility.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : May 23, 2020 11:10 AM IST

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across populations globally, many studies focused initially on people with severe disease who may need potentially scarce resources in hospital and intensive care. But as the disease progresses with no signs of abating in the near future, scientists now seek to find answers as to what may increase risks of severe complications and even death in certain people. Experts say that this will lead to good planning and preparation before, and implementation of data collection during a pandemic. They are of the opinion that if 'we have to live with COVID-19 for the next several years, we need to understand and optimize care before, during, and beyond the hospital'.

Now, a recent observational study in The BMJ says that there are a number of factors that may increase your risk of getting the new coronavirus. According to researchers, age, sex, obesity, and underlying health conditions all play a role in your susceptibility. This is a slight variation from earlier studies that say that age and underlying conditions are the main risk factors.

About the study

This is the largest prospective observational study that has been undertaken till now. Researchers from UK provide a comprehensive picture of the characteristics of patients hospitalised in the UK with COVID-19 and their outcomes. They analysed data from 20,133 patients with COVID-19 admitted to 208 acute care hospitals in England, Wales, and Scotland between 6 February and 19 April 2020. This represents around a third of all patients admitted to hospital with this disease in the UK. The average age of patients in the study was 73 years, and more men (12,068; 60 per cent) had to take admission in hospital than women (8,065; 40 per cent).

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The known risk factors

Data from across the world and may studies show that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at a greater risk of severe complications and possible death. This is particularly true for people with chronic diabetes, heart, lung, liver and kidney diseases. People over the age of 50 are also more at risk.

At the time of publication of the study, just over a quarter (26 per cent) of all Covid-19 patients in hospital had died, 54 per cent were discharged alive, and a third (34 per cent) remained in hospital. Outcomes were poorer for those requiring mechanical ventilation: 37 per cent had died, 17 per cent had been discharged alive, and 46 per cent remained in hospital.

New risk factors that were identified

But now researchers also saw that obesity and gender are key factors associated with the need for higher levels of care and higher risk of death in hospital. Men are at a higher risk of experiencing severe complications. They are also more likely to succumb to the virus. Obesity is another factor. According to researchers, this is a major additional risk factor that was not highlighted in earlier studies. They suspect that reduced lung function or inflammation associated with obesity may play a role here. However, they do not say conclusively as to why this happens.

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