Fairly early in the pandemic, we reported that AMD might be a risk factor for more severe COVID infections. Doctors had observed high rates of severe COVID-19 infections and death among hospitalized patients who had AMD, but the evidence was anecdotal.
The most recent research, published by researchers at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, has identified a shared genetic risk factor between the two diseases — variations in the PDGFB gene, which plays a role in the formation of abnormal blood vessels in AMD — that puts people with AMD more at risk of a severe case of COVID.
In fact, the research suggests that having AMD is a greater risk (25%) for severe COVID than Type 2 diabetes (21%) and obesity (13%).
Based on the evidence, the researchers suggest that lowering the activity of the PDGFB gene may form the basis of a treatment that lowers COVID infection severity. According to one of the study’s authors, there are already clinical trials underway for an improved wet AMD treatment that combines current anti-VEGF therapy with drugs that block PDGFB signaling.
While no advisory statements have been issued by medical groups, the AMDF believes that knowing that you have AMD, or that AMD runs in your family, should be taken into consideration when making decisions about risking exposure to COVID-19, and you may want to consult with your doctor about these findings to develop a treatment plan should you get COVID.
Chung J, Vig V, Sun X, Han X, O’Connor GT, Chen X, DeAngelis MM, Farrer LA, Subramanian ML. Genome-Wide Pleiotropy Study Identifies Association of PDGFB with Age-Related Macular Degeneration and COVID-19 Infection Outcomes. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2023; 12(1):109. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm12010109