It is known that males have a higher risk from the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). A study from the UK published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal has now found that apart from that, old age, deprivation, living in a densely populated area, obesity, and chronic kidney disease are associated with a positive test for Covid-19.
The study looked at 3,802 people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (including 587 positive tests) between Jan 28 and April 4 in primary care centres.
Study author Professor Simon de Lusignan from the University of Oxford, and Director of the Royal College of GPs Surveillance Centre, UK, says: “While clear trends have emerged from hospital data for the people with severe symptoms, the risk of infection among the general population remains a grey area. It’s important to know which groups in the wider community are most at risk of infection, so that we can better understand SARS-CoV-2 transmission and how to prevent new cases.”
Hospital-based studies have reported that being older, male, and having underlying health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, are associated with having more severe complications of Covid-19. The new analysis identifies that some of these factors are also associated with testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. However, there were some notable differences. For example, most underlying health conditions did not significantly increase susceptibility to infection and the analysis found a link between smoking and lower likelihood of a positive test result. The authors believe this is due to confounding factors, rather than indicating a protective effect, and they warn that the result should not encourage people to continue or take up smoking.
Professor de Lusignan says: “This result does not indicate that smoking protects against infection, and there are many potential alternative explanations – such as smoking hampering the sensitivity of the SARS-CoV-2 test, or people who smoke being more likely to have an ongoing cough so being more likely to be tested despite not having the virus. As well as the well-documented harms to overall health from smoking, there is potential for smoking to increase the severity of Covid-19 disease, and so our findings should not be used to conclude that smoking prevents SARS-CoV-2 infection, or to encourage ongoing smoking.”
Among adults, those aged 40 to 64 years were at the greatest risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 (18.5% tested positive, 243 out of 1,316 people), compared with children aged up to 17 years (4.6%, 23 of 499). Among 1,612 men, 18.4% (296) tested positive, compared with 13.3% (291/2,190) of women.
Compared with people of white ethnicity, of whom 15.5% (388 of 2,497) tested positive, the proportion of people of black ethnicity testing positive were much higher, at 62.1% (36 of 58 people). This finding remained significant after adjusting for comorbidities such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the prevalence of which is increased in black ethnic groups. The authors say that these results should be interpreted with caution, as there were small numbers of people from England’s minority ethnic groups in the study.
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