People with this blood type were at less risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms, study showed

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, studies show one blood type may give individuals added protections against the virus. Genetics testing firm, 23andMe recently started conducting their own research.

They're now tracking those who have tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Anjali Shastri with 23andMe says more than 900,000 people have taken their COVID-19 survey. Back in April, the company asked those who have previously tested positive for the virus, after being admitted into the hospital, to fill out a survey and rate the severity of their symptoms. The initial findings were interesting.

"Individuals with blood type-O are 9 percent to 18 percent less likely to test positive for COVID-19," Dr. Shastri said.

Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Luis Ostrowski with UTHealth has been reviewing similar blood type studies that support the claims.

"It turns out that there is a cluster of genes associated with severe disease, and this cluster is more associated with blood types," Dr. Ostrowski said. "Patients with A-blood types had a higher chance of having severe disease and patients with O-blood types had about a half of a risk of having severe disease in other patients."

But, as the new data comes in regarding type-O patients, there are warnings. Medical experts say don't let your guard down.

"It's really multifactorial. So do not make any decisions about your personal safety based on your blood type," Dr. Ostrowski told us.

It's something Monica Russo echoes as well.

"I don't want folks thinking that just because you have O-type blood that you're somehow immune to all of this," Russo said.

She and her husband recently tested positive for COVID-19. Her symptoms weren't as severe as his. Both of them are type-O.

"He got to a point where he actually had to go to the hospital because he had some issues breathing. So you just don't know how this is going to affect you, and that's kind of the scary part about all of this," Russo said.

While it's still very early in their research, the 23andMe preliminary investigation into genetics seems to support these findings, and the study continues today. If you're interested, they're looking for more participants right now and are offering free kits to those who have been hospitalized from the virus.

"The goals of the study are to complete the analysis and then make the results available to the scientific community," Dr. Shastri said.

It's all for the good of science and to hopefully find a cure or vaccine down the road.

23andMe tells ABC13 this is still very preliminary data. Besides studying blood type, they're looking into other variables with those who have been hospitalized. Right now, they're seeing higher rates among minority groups, and it's something they're interested in following up on with future studies.

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