Adults With Down Syndrome have a Higher Likelihood of Dying from COVID-19

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Carlos Palácio (publicdomainpictures.net)

A recent study shows adults who have Down syndrome have a higher risk of developing complications that can lead to death if they contract coronavirus. They also found that the norm is much higher than the usual norm.

Researchers on the large study discovered that above 8 million adults in Britain, especially those with the syndrome are 4 times more likely to end up being hospitalized with coronavirus and ten times more likely to pass away from the lethal virus.

Currently, people with the syndrome are not on the list of groups that are at most risk of developing a severe illness due to coronavirus but experts emphasize that they should be on such lists because the study reveals they are at very high risk.

The syndrome is a disorder on a genetic level where people have a third copy of chromosome 21 instead of the usual 2 copies. This syndrome is able to delay growth in such individuals and cause different levels of intellectual impairment. Such people are also known to be prone to specific medical conditions such as congenital heart disease as well as conditions like sleep apnea and breathing disorder.

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While this study includes such conditions as contributory factors for the excess risk such people are at from the coronavirus, they do not explain entirely why this happens.

Researchers suspect there to be a difference in the system of immune function in such people and that it may be playing a larger role here.

Joaquin Espinosa is the executive director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. He explains that the immune system in Down syndrome people is often over-reactive.

Usually, this manifests in autoimmune conditions, including diseases like autoimmune thyroid, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease. More generally however people with the syndrome have what he calls a dysregulation in their immune system.

Though Espinosa was not involved in the study, in many cases he notes that overly reactive immune reactions end up causing damage to a person’s organs and this causes the COVID-19 illness to appear more severe in such people.

Espinosa has long called the syndrome to be a sufficient risk factor that contributes to the risk factors of COVID-19.

He believes this study provides the needed figures to support his argument.

The study is published in Annals of Internal Medicine and was led by Dr.Julia Hippisley-Cox, from the University of Oxford.

In the above 8 million patients of adult primary care, 4,053 people have the syndrome. Among them, only a small portion of patients was tested for the lethal virus during the study.

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But among those that died during the time period of the study, COVID-19 happened to be a leading cause especially those with the syndrome. In total 68 people with the conditions passed away from the disease. 40 percent were related to have died of the virus.

Adults with the syndrome usually live in residences involving large groups which are possibly why they catch the disease as often but even then living arrangements are only part of why the risks for this group of the population are so high.

Espinosa says people who have the conditions and their families should pay particular attention to prevention tactics such as social distancing and mask-wearing. If in the chance occurrence they do get infected they should be monitored keenly and taken to the hospital if they have trouble breathing.

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