Sickle Cell Trait May Up the Stakes

People with sickle cell disease are considered at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19—but researchers wonder if just carrying 1 copy of the sickle cell gene ups the risk, STAT reports.

Up to 3 million Americans carry just 1 of the 2 copies required to cause the disease, which largely affects African Americans. But the trait is associated with other health problems, including a susceptibility to oxygen deprivation.

That inspired a new Morehouse School of Medicine study to investigate whether the trait puts people at increased risk of severe Covid-19 infection.

“Sickle cell trait, in the absence of extreme conditions or major health problems, has negligible consequences for most people,” said Herman Taylor, a Morehouse cardiologist. “Covid could change that dynamic—turning a silent condition into a deadly risk—and we must take a closer look.”

New Support for Historically Black Medical Schools

Morehouse is one of 4 historically Black medical schools that got welcome news today: Michael R. Bloomberg will donate $100 million to support scholarships—expected to ease the burden of about 800 students, The New York Times reports.
In the US, Bloomberg notes, just 5% of practicing physicians are Black—despite data showing that Black patients -- who are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans—fare better when treated by Black doctors.

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