CMU researcher explores genetic susceptibility to Coronavirus

Jun 26, 2020

Credit Central Michigan University

A Central Michigan University researcher has brought attention to a genetic enzyme deficiency that may cause greater susceptibility to coronavirus.


A graduate teaching faculty member in CMU’s Master of Health Administration Program, Dr. Dan Vick said there is a potential link between G6PD deficiency and greater susceptibility to coronavirus. 


Vick said G6PD deficiency is the most common enzyme defect in the world and affects around 400 million people. The enzyme helps protect cells from harmful free oxygen radicals that destroy cells. 


“When the body is in a state of oxidative stress, in people who have G6PD deficiency, their red bloods are more prone to be destroyed,” Vick said. “My concern is that, in patients with COVID-19, the oxidative stress from the illness may result in them having more severe manifestations of the illness.”


Vick said this is something he would like to see further research on because previous studies have shown that other forms of coronavirus were more likely to attack deficient cells compared to non-deficient cells.


The deficiency is more common in Africa, the mediterrean region and parts of Asia. 


“Some of the different variants of G6PD deficiency that cause more severe manifestations are known to occur genetically in the mediterrean region,” Vick said. “This could account for why there are higher rates of death and severe illness in these mediterrean countries.”


He said the rate of G6PD deficiency is higher in African-Americans and that COVID-19 has more severe cases in the African-American population.


“These are a couple of clues that suggest there might be a relationship between COVID-19 and G6PD deficiency.”


Vick said the military began testing new entrants for G6PD back in the 1980s.


“One area I would like to see investigate further is in the military population of COVID-19 cases. By looking at their COVID-19 cases and correlating that with G6PD deficiency, we would have a better idea if the deficiency is strongly related to susceptibility and severity of COVID-19.”


As of now, no definitive studies have been done, just relationships and pieces of evidence have been found that may point to a larger relationship.