White blood cells and severe COVID-19: a Mendelian randomization study

Yitang Sun, Jingqi Zhou, Kaixiong Ye

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Received date: 8th October 2020

Background The pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has rapidly emerged to seriously threaten public health. We aimed to investigate whether white blood cell traits have potential causal effects on severe COVID-19 using Mendelian randomization (MR). Methods To evaluate the causal associations between various white blood cell traits and severe COVID-19, we conducted a two-sample MR analysis with summary statistics from recent large genome-wide association studies. Results Our MR results indicated potential causal associations of white blood cell count, myeloid white blood cell count, and granulocyte count with severe COVID-19, with odds ratios (OR) of 0.84 (95% CI: 0.72-0.98), 0.81 (95% CI: 0.70-0.94), and 0.84 (95% CI: 0.71-0.99), respectively. Increasing eosinophil percentage of white blood cells was associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 (OR: 1.22, 95% CI: 1.03-1.45). Conclusions Our results suggest the potential causal effects of lower white blood cell count, lower myeloid white blood cell count, lower granulocyte count, and higher eosinophil percentage of white blood cells on an increased risk of severe COVID-19.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on a preprint server, which is currently undergoing peer review at Scientific Reports. The findings have yet to be thoroughly evaluated, nor has a decision on ultimate publication been made. Therefore, the results reported should not be considered conclusive, and these findings should not be used to inform clinical practice, or public health policy, or be promoted as verified information.

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