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Health authority starts study of individual coronavirus risks

The Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare is now looking at the effects of genetic inheritance and lifestyle.

Riittävä etäisyys on tarpeen ulkoillessakin
Wide differences in the severity of symptoms have been seeing among infected individuals. Keeping at least 1 metre distance between yourself and others can help prevent infection. Image: Yle/Kari NIhti

Seeking to further define the scope of groups at increased risk of succumbing to COVID-19, the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) is beginning research on factors that may impact the severity of the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The study is aimed at gathering data on the role played by factors such as genetic inheritance, lifestyles and medications used for pre-existing conditions. In addition, researchers will be looking at the variation of symptoms and differences in the progress of the disease in different individuals.

Samples are already being collected from patients, and THL says that preliminary results are expected to be seen during the current epidemic.

"It is probable that before the widespread introduction of the vaccine under development, the coronavirus epidemic will reappear from time to time. It is then, at the latest, that we will be able to use the information being gathered," Research Professor Markus Perola said in a THL release on Monday.

The study is being carried out in cooperation with the nation's university hospitals, several public health districts, and the private healthcare company Terveystalo.

Most of the subjects are patients who have been hospitalized for a coronavirus infection, both suspected and confirmed cases. Already, wide differences in the severity of symptoms have been seen among infected individuals.

So far, it seems that the severity of the disease is affected by age, gender, lifestyle, pre-existing conditions and medications being taken for those conditions. Genetic factors, in general, influence how susceptible an individual is to infections.

"It is extremely important to find out why some people come down with a severe case of the coronavirus disease. It may help in future in targeting resources to protect the most vulnerable people," Markus Perola added.

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